IN OUR MILKY WAY h
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BIO:
HIS LIFE IN ASTRONOMY
AND QUEEN'S MUSIC P 26
.* the best,
• »the, hewe*st!
beginning P .20 .
Observe the Full Moon! P 54
Deef>sky wonders in Cepheus p. 52
Bob Berman on flje limits of tfufh p. 10
Vol. 40 • Issue 9
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YOUR ADVENTURE STARTS HERE
This Month in Astronomy AStrODOITIV
"A Kind of Magic" Contest
by David J. Eicher
If you flip to page 26, you'll see my story
"Brian May: A life in science and music."
The Queen guitarist, singer, and song-
writer is also a Ph.D. astrophysicist and a
member of Astronomy's Editorial Advisory
Board. Brians life story is thus unique — a
tale of working on the motions of dust par-
ticles in the solar system interrupted by
30-plus years of rock 'n roll, with a return
to finish his dissertation.
The story in this issue is the first time
Brian May's life has been described wherein
astronomy and worldwide musical success
have an equal footing. (And you can read a
much longer, 8,500-word version of the
story online at www.Astronomy.com/toc.)
To celebrate the occasion, Brian and
Astronomy magazine are holding an event.
The Brian May/Queen "A Kind of Magic"
Contest is open from August 1 through
September 1, 2012. As I've described, Brian
left his nearly finished doctoral degree on
the table when Queen began achieving
huge success and set off on an aggressive
schedule of making albums and touring.
Brians returning and finishing his Ph.D. is
a rarity, only possible because the subject
hadn't changed a lot over the previous
I don't know what each of you does, but
most readers of Astronomy are not Ph.D.
astronomers. Whatever your occupation, I
want you to think creatively. Contest
entrants will submit a short essay to the
magazine that describes what they would
do — what would the subject be and why?
— if they could magically go back to school
and earn a doctoral degree in astronomy.
How would you change the astronomy
world? What research subject would entice
you? Planetary science? Cosmology? Gal-
axy investigations? And what specifically
would you take on as a line of research?
(And for those of you who are Ph.D.s and
want to enter, you simply can imagine what
you might do if you got a second degree in
a different area of research. Ha!)
The two best essays will win a prize for
the writers — an autographed copy of Brian
May's Ph.D. dissertation, A Survey of Radial
Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, which
was published by Springer- Verlag in 2008.
For full details on the contest and to enter,
The contest's name, of course, comes
from the hit song "A Kind of Magic" from
Queen's album of the same name, released
in 1986. The accompanying huge-scale
Magic Tour would be the last with all four
band members. Of the tour, Brian says, "We
just had it right and felt that finally we
knew how to play live, we knew how to
connect with the audience. It all just felt
like joy. I think it was the best I've ever
played. And Freddie Mercury was magnifi-
cent in those times; the perfect athlete, the
perfect front man, the perfect link to the
audience. I just remember it as being a blur
of good feelings." You can see the choice
show from this tour on the DVD Queen
Live at Wembley Stadium.
For more on Queen and on Brian's
astronomy, check out the story on page 26.
Editor David J. Eicher
Art Director LuAnn Williams Belter
Senior Editors Michael E. Bakich, Richard Talcott
Associate Editors Bill Andrews, Liz Kruesi
Assistant Editor Karri Ferron
Editorial Associate Valerie Penton
Senior Graphic Designer Alison Mackey
Illustrator Roen Kelly
Production Coordinator Annie Guldberg
Bob Berman, Glenn F. Chaple, Jr., Martin George,
Tony Hallas, Phil Harrington, Ray Jayawardhana,
David H. Levy, Alister Ling, Steve Nadis, Stephen James
O'Meara.Tom Polakis, Martin Ralcliffe, Mike D. Reynolds,
Sheldon Reynolds, John Shibley, Raymond Shubinski
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
Buzz Aldrin, Marcia Bartusiak, Timothy Ferns, Alex Filippenko,
Adam Frank, John S. Gallagher III, Daniel W. E. Green, William K.
Hartmann, Paul Hodge, Anne L Kinney, Edward Kolb,
Stephen P. Maran, Brian May, S. Alan Stern, James Trefil
Kalmbach Publishing Co.
President Charles R. Croft
Vice President, Editorial, Publisher Kevin P. Keefe
Vice President, Advertising Scott Stollberg
Vice President, Marketing Daniel R. Lance
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6 Astronomy- September 2012
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naustvf iirtEnvw xt
AM) OUtBTS MU5JC , •
VOL.40, NO. 9
20 Quest for the most
distant objects 4!
The search for the first
structures in the universe
has baffled astronomers for
decades. But telescopes now on
the horizon promise to shed
new light, adam frank
26 Brian May: A life in
science and music 'it
You know him best as guitarist, singer, and
songwriter from the rock group Queen,
but Brian May is also a Ph.D. astronomer,
popularizer of the cosmos, stereophotography
enthusiast, and advocate for animal rights.
DAVID J. EICHER
36 The Sky this Month
Uranus reaches its peak, martin ratcliffe and alister ling
38 StarDome and Path of the planets
RICHARD TALCOTT; ILLUSTRATIONS BY ROEN KELLY
44 Black holes in our backyard ®
Black holes are the most astounding objects in the universe. And at least 19 of them lurk
within the Milky Way. RICHARD TALCOTT
50 Ask Astro
52 Wander the wonders of the King's constellation
Cepheus contains enough star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies to keep you observing a long
time. MICHAEL E. BAKICH
54 You should observe the Full Moon! 4)
Mountains and lava plains, rays, and a hint of color invite exploring a bright Moon.
MICHAEL E. BAKICH
56 Astronomy's third annual Star Products
Get ready to ogle some amazing equipment as we honor the 35 best telescopes, cameras,
and accessories produced in the past year. PHIL HARRINGTON
Astronomy (ISSN 0091-6358, USPS 531-350) is published monthly
by Kalmbach Publishing Co., 21027 Crossroads Circle, P. 0. Box 1612,
Waukesha, Wl 53187-1612. Periodicals postage paid at Waukesha,
Wl, and additional offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to
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Visit Astronomy.com/toc for bonus
material — it's exclusive to Astronomy
beginning. < ( ;
ON THE COVER
Astronomers are in a race to find
the first structures that formed.
These aren't the huge galaxies
of today, but instead smaller and
10 Strange Universe
12 Observing Basics
64 Secret Sky
M82: The "marquee" galaxy.
STEPHEN JAMES O'MEARA
66 Imaging the Cosmos
How I take pictures.
IN EVERY ISSUE
9 Web Talk
14 Astro News
Faint jets suggest past Milky
Historic launch to ISS.
Found: a star that vaporizes
David J. McComas.
65 New Products
70 Advertiser Index
71 Reader Gallery
74 The Cosmic Grid
Fast 1-second downloads
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We welcome your comments at Astronomy Letters, P. O. Box 1612,
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include your name, city, state, and country. Letters may be edited
for space and clarity.
'HE ORDER OF
After reading "The 6 most important numbers
in the universe" (June 2012), I thought I'd
share a story from my youth. Several "tens
of years ago," I was taught to reduce numbers to
powers of 10 to estimate an answer. I was told
to express each number as a single digit and its
power of 10 — adding powers to multiply and
subtracting them to divide, then doing the sin-
gle digit in my head. I learned that if I got the
right power of 10, the maximum I could be off
is 10 percent and I'd be within 90 percent of
correct. And it works. Sadly, nobody estimates
anymore — they use calculators. — Alan Dooley, Waterloo, Illinois
Conspicuous by its absence in your set of important numbers in the June issue is e
(e = 2.7182818 ...), the base of natural logarithms. By itself, that value doesn't seem
very impressive, but the constant permeates nature: It appears in the way a pot of
coffee (or anything else) cools off, how radioactive materials decay, how heat spreads,
how interest (and bacteria and populations) grow, and how a chain hangs. The con-
stant e is part of the nature of waves, spirals, and attenuation of light or sound; those
are just a few examples. I would bet that in any textbook about thermodynamics,
(astro)physics, chemistry, engineering, etc., you will encounter e before you see n for
the first time. — Hans Schroeder, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Simon Stevin in 7586
I just want to thank you for printing the
article of Brian May's speech at the STAR-
MUS Festival in the Canary Islands ("What
are we doing in space?" February 2012).
In a world where politicians seem to dis-
cuss everything but real issues, it was
refreshing to read his intelligent and elo-
quent words about the current state of our
planet before we explore (and desecrate!)
others. The article covered such a variety
of social and political issues that are com-
pletely relevant to the continuation of our
investigation of other planets.
It seemed like he was hesitant to give
the speech, and I would love to know how
it was received. Brian, thank you for the
courage you showed by putting your opin-
ion out there. You are well-versed in both
music and science, and that is truly a
unique set of talents, but even more sig-
nificant is that you are also a conscientious
human being who cares about Earth and
the life that inhabits it. Keep talking —
some of us are listening. — Kevin Whitson,
Wood Dale, Illinois
It was interesting to contrast the articles on
future space exploration by a pessimistic
Brian May and an optimistic Robert Zim-
merman ("Will we go back to the Moon?")
in the February issue. (I'll note that May
ended on a guardedly hopeful tone.) I think
reality will show itself to be somewhere in
between their views. We'll go into space
with all of our baggage eventually following
us, unless deliberate steps are taken to con-
trol that. — Spence Blakely, Portsmouth, Rhode Island
The reference to LEGOs in the June 2012
Cosmic Grid (page 74) states the wrong
country of origin: The LEGO company is
based in Denmark. — Astronomy editors
W^ Web Talk
What's newatAstronomy.com. by Karri Ferron
I Featured video
'Tour the solar system: Uranus"
Uranus, everyone's favorite
oddball planet, reaches
opposition in September,
making now the best time
to view and photograph it.
But what do scientists know
about this blue-green world
that seems to roll around
the Sun on its side? Associ-
ate Editor Liz Kruesi pro-
vides an overview in "Tour
the solar system: Uranus.'The first planet discovered in modern times,
Uranus is an enigma in our planetary neighborhood. In the video,
Kruesi provides the basic parameters of the world; explains how scien-
tists think it ended up with a rotation axis nearly parallel to its orbit;
explores its ring system, family of moons, and atmosphere; and more.
This video and all others in the Tour the solar system series are avail-
able to registered members ofAstronomy.com. Registration is free and
easy, so sign up today and head to www.Astronomy.com/solarsystem
to learn more about this oddball planet.
Get to know the night sky
Interested in observing? Visit Astronomy.com's "Get to know the night
sky" for tons of information geared toward beginners. There, Senior Edi-
tor Richard Talcott helps you become familiar with the constellations
and teaches you how to use star charts and the online StarDome.
Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich also guides you through constellation
pronunciations and offers 10 easy steps to become an observer. Finally,
you'll find easy targets you can locate from your backyard tonight. Start
your astronomy adventure now at www.Astronomy.com/intro.
Reader Photo Gallery
Visit www.Astronomy.com/readergallery to
browse members' images of the year's top
celestial events, like this one of the May
201 2 annular eclipse from Tom Bash.
The Astronomy Foundation
Visit www.Astronomy.com/astronomyfoundation for easy-to-follow
outreach advice from the nonprofit organization whose goal is to share
the wonders of the universe with a greater audience.
REGISTER TODAY! Gotowww.Astronomy.com/register
for access to bonus articles, photos, videos, and more.
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by Bob Berman
Sometimes the truth is just what you have the space and time to explain.
I'm a liar. I can't help it. Each page I write
has something wrong to a degree and
— no surprise — readers often catch on.
"Two months ago, you wrote that the solar
system is heading toward the star Deneb in
Cygnus. But my textbook says we're actu-
ally moving toward Vega in Lyra."
That person was right. But so was I.
How can two conflicting statements both
be correct? That's this month's subject.
The Milky Way's rotation swiftly carries
the Sun and Earth toward Deneb. However,
if one merely considers the 200 nearest
stars around us in space, we have a separate
little motion relative to them. This slow
sideways drift is toward Vega; some say the
constellation Hercules. Years ago, scientists
only knew that local motion.
The problem — and it never ends — is
limited space. If science writers pause to
fully explain such facts, we'll never get to
the point of the article. Hence, much that
appears in science magazines is true in just
one sense. Falsehoods include the simplest
"facts" everyone thinks they know.
For example, we say Earth rotates in 24
hours. However, our planet actually spins
in 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1 seconds.
The discrepancy isn't caused by rounding
off. Clocks are deliberately built to include
an extra few minutes of spin. This com-
pensates for Earth's orbital path, which
places the Sun toward a new direction
each day. If we want Sol to always be high-
est when clocks say noon, we must let
Earth spin once completely and then add
an extra 3 minutes and 55.9 seconds of
rotation. Only then will we face the Sun at
the same clock time the next day. Time-
pieces were thus designed to keep our lives
aligned with the Sun. Don't imagine that
they register our actual rotation.
The sky is blue, right? Well, buy a spec-
troscope on eBay. This wonderful instru-
ment reveals what's really in the light we
Browse the "Strange Universe" archive
see. Point it at the daytime heavens. Bam
— all the colors of the rainbow. Vivid
greens and oranges come from the sky. Its
composition resembles sunlight, but with
red scattering four times less than blue, the
latter color is visually dominant. So it's not
strictly correct to say, "The sky is blue." It
would be better to say, "The sky looks blue."
But that's probably too picky. After all,
we happily say, "The Sun is rising," despite
knowing that "the horizon is falling" would
be more accurate. We don't want to sound
stilted or obnoxious. Still, shouldn't we
draw the line when a statement is more
wrong than right?
Much that appears in
science magazines is
true in just one sense.
Consider the expanding universe. Cos-
mic expansion would seem as straightfor-
ward as blowing up a party balloon.
Actually, it's not like that at all. Turns out,
the cosmos inflates only on the largest
scales, which itself is odd. Within solar sys-
tems, star clusters, individual galaxies, and
among all the stars visible in the night sky,
there's no expansion whatsoever. You could
travel 3 million light-years and not encoun-
ter the slightest hint of expansion. As a
result, people are seriously puzzled. They
ask how galaxies can possibly collide if the
universe is expanding. Such confusion
arises because we rarely mention that an
"expanding universe" doesn't apply to each
cluster of galaxies and all its contents.
Another oft-repeated fact is that light has
a constant speed. It's true in a vacuum. But it
goes 25 percent slower through most liquids,
which is why a spoon seems bent in a half-
glass of water. But is light really slower then?
Kind of. It does take longer to pass through
water. However, light photons still move at
In water, light
than it would in a
vacuum, making a spoon appear bent in a glass
of the liquid. But does that mean light doesn't
have a Constant Speed? Hemera/Thinkstock
their previous superfast speed between water
molecules. They're absorbed and then re-
radiated only when they hit atoms, and this
process takes a bit of time. So are photons
really moving slower within water or not?
Such nuances can't be clarified in a few
words. If I fully explain, any article will read
like the legalistic "don't use your new laptop
in a hot tub" part of an instruction booklet.
The alternative is to be flat-out wrong in
some way. There's no good solution.
Does Jupiter orbit the Sun? Actually, it
orbits the barycenter where the jovian and
solar gravities balance. Have you ever seen a
meteor? Actually, you've seen only the glow-
ing air around the seed-sized meteoroid.
Excessively condensed science is every-
where. You've always read that humans
breathe out carbon dioxide. Turns out, we
exhale roughly 78 percent nitrogen, 17 per-
cent oxygen, 4 percent carbon dioxide, and
1 percent argon. We exhale far more oxygen
than carbon dioxide. Performing mouth-
to- mouth to fill someone's lungs with our
air would be pointless if there wasn't a lot of
oxygen in that offering.
It's downright misleading to say, "Out-
breaths are carbon dioxide." Yet no science
writer has ever to my knowledge taken the
time to clarify this.
So next time you spot something suspi-
cious, be aware that science prose is simpli-
fied for brevity and filled with trade-offs.
(And, on this page, designed to sneak in
some cool little-known facts.) Is everything
Yes, sure. Also, no. «
Contact me about my strange universe by
10 Astronomy- September 2012
Show him there are
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by Glenn Chaple
A First Quarter Moon offers observers countless targets, including two special letters.
First Quarter or half Moon — which is
the correct name of the lunar phase
that occurs one week after New
Moon? Astronomers prefer the former
while poets and dreamers opt for the latter.
One of my goals as a middle school science
teacher was to stamp "quarter Moon" into
the impressionable young minds of my stu-
dents. I had a tactic. I'd begin by saying,
"Notice that First Quarter phase occurs
when the Moon has traveled one quarter of
the way around Earth since New Moon."
Then I'd add, "During First Quarter, we
only see half of the one-half of the Moon
that faces Earth. Half of one-half equals one
quarter of the entire Moon." Mission
accomplished! Or so I thought.
One day, one of my more astute students
raised his hand. "If that's the case, why do
we call the Full Moon 'full' when it's only
gone halfway around Earth and we can only
see the half of the Moon that faces us?" You
could almost hear the "whoosh!" as the
wind left my sails. When it comes to nam-
ing lunar phases, I have to admit that the
poets and dreamers got this one right.
The First Quarter Moon ("first half," if
you prefer) is a breathtaking telescopic
sight. Up and down the length of the termi-
nator (the boundary between day and night
on the Moon), our eyes feast on a spectacu-
lar jumble of craters and mountains whose
rugged topography is enhanced by the long
shadows of a lunar morning. On the night-
time side of the terminator, bright specks
and shapes punctuate the darkness as the
rising Sun illuminates mountain peaks and
lofty regions. One of the more intriguing of
these shapes is the Lunar X.
The Lunar X appears when sunlight
strikes an elevated area at the junction of the
craters La Caille, Blanchinus, and Purbach. I
had viewed the First Quarter Moon hun-
dreds of times in the past without ever notic-
ing this remarkable feature. I still might be
Browse the "Observing Basics" archive
clueless as to its existence had it not been for
Astronomy Senior Editor Michael E. Bakich
and Contributing Editor Phil Harrington.
Bakich described the Lunar X in his October
2009 Astronomy article "Explore 12 great
lunar targets" while Harrington mentioned it
in his book Cosmic Challenge (Cambridge
University Press, 2010).
I first saw the Lunar X during a star
party last spring. Thanks to a timetable in
Cosmic Challenge, I knew the X would be
visible that evening. I pointed my telescope
toward the Moon and peered into the eye-
piece. There, standing out from the dark-
ness about a quarter of the way up from the
Moon's south pole, was a bright X. What an
amazing sight, and surprisingly easy to see!
How could such an obvious feature have
eluded so many observers? Sensory over-
load is one culprit. The First Quarter Moon
displays so much detail that we often fail to
notice subtle, yet striking features. Timing
is another factor. The window of visibility
for the Lunar X lasts a mere four hours.
In September, the Lunar X will be in full
view on the 22nd during the hours centered
on 21h46m UT (5:46 p.m. EDT). These cir-
cumstances favor observers in the eastern
parts of North and South America (after the
Sun sets) and Western Europe and Africa.
Those in eastern Asia and Australia will get
their turn next month (October 22 around
1 lh08m UT). Because of the 29y 2 -day cycle
of lunar phases, conditions favorable for
seeing the X from a particular location on
Earth occur roughly every other month.
Amazingly, during those precious few
hours of Lunar X visibility, observers can
spot another letter. If you focus your atten-
tion on the part of the terminator near the
lunar equator, you'll see a distinct letter V.
Like the X, the Lunar V is a transient phe-
nomenon — in this instance created by
sunlight striking high elevations near a
pair of intersecting ridges between Mare
Vaporum and Sinus Medii.
Whether you're a novice or a veteran
skygazer who has a "been there, done that"
The Lunar X and the Lunar V (circled) are both
visible for a few hours each month at First
Quarter Moon, ziad Ei-zaatari
attitude about the Moon, be sure to pen in
the Lunar X and V on your "must-see" list.
The two are accessible to anyone, regard-
less of experience. They are within the
grasp of the smallest telescope magnifying
as low as 20x. Once you've seen them,
you'll agree that the letters V and X stand
for Very X-traordinary!
Another important lunar event happens
September 22. This is the date of the sec-
ond International Observe the Moon Night
(InOMN), a worldwide outreach event
sponsored by a dedicated team of scien-
tists, educators, and lunar enthusiasts.
Through InOMN, they hope to instill in
the public a sense of wonderment and
curiosity about the Moon. For information
on InOMN activities in your area or ways
you can conduct your own InOMN event,
go to http://observethemoonnight.org.
Questions, comments, or suggestions?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next
month: astroimaging with a cellphone and
a telescope. Clear skies! <9
1 2 Astronomy • September 2012
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Man/olnilC Ml PI NASA received the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) for the upcoming
iVIal VCIUU j I VI I nl James Webb Space Telescope (Hubble's successor) in a ceremony May 9.
For the latest news on
and sky events, visit
Faint jets suggest past
Milky Way activity
Astronomers have long considered our home, the Milky Way
Galaxy, a relatively quiet place. But newly discovered ethereal
gamma-ray beams bursting from our galaxy's center, combined
with a 2010 finding of unexpected gamma-ray bubbles emanat-
ing from the same location, may indicate that our galaxy was
much more active a relatively short time ago. Details about the
beams and their implications will appear in an upcoming issue
of The Astrophysical Journal.
"These faint jets are a ghost or after-image of what existed a
million years ago," says lead author Meng Su of the Harvard-
Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachu-
setts. "They strengthen the case for an active galactic nucleus in
the Milky Way's relatively recent past."
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope discovered both
the beams and the bubbles of two years ago. The former stretch
about 27,000 light-years above and below the galactic plane, at
an angle of 15°; these are the only such jets known. The bubbles
also happen to extend 27,000 light-years from the center of our
galaxy, but do so perpendicularly to the plane.
Bubbles 'n' beams. Twin gamma-ray bubbles (purple) and newly
discovered twin gamma-ray beams (pink) emanate from the Milky Way's
center, as shown in this illustration. Together, they indicate that our
galactic center may have been much more active in the recent past.
The two structures may be related, but they almost certainly
formed differently. The beams likely resulted from hot matter
squeezing through the tight magnetic field of the galactic center
while the bubbles probably formed from the push of material
spewing from the Milky Way's central black hole. More research
is necessaiy to understand these structures. — bill Andrews
1 A Peering past i
galaxy's dark dust
1 (j Historic launch to ISS
1 7 Found: a star that
vaporizes its world
David J. McComas
Mars capable of producing organic carbon
"| £ The solar system's
Researchers studying martian
meteorites have found that the
Red Planet is capable of produc-
ing organic carbon. Also known
as reduced carbon, this substance
is an important ingredient in the
formation of life, but it remains
unclear whether Mars has ever
had any biological activity. The
findings, which should help scien-
tists search for signs of such activ-
ity, appeared in a Science Express
paper published online May 24.
"These findings show that the
storage of reduced carbon mole-
cules on Mars occurred through-
out the planet's history and might
have been similar to processes
that occurred on the ancient
Earth," says lead author Andrew
Steele of the Carnegie Institution
for Science in Washington, D.C.
Similar molecules, composed
of large chains of carbon and
hydrogen atoms, had been found
before in martian meteorites, but
scientists didn't know if the carbon
originated on Mars. After studying
1 1 meteorites, which spanned
about 4.2 billion years of martian
history, Steele's team found large
carbon compounds in 10 and
proved that the carbon resulted
from natural processes on Mars.
Don't forego orgo. Scientists have
learned that Mars can form organic
carbon, a fact that might help the
Curiosity rover detect evidence of
biological activity, as illustrated
"Understanding the genesis of
these non-biological, carbon-
containing macromolecules on
Mars is crucial for developing
future missions to detect evi-
dence of life," Steele says. — B. A.
14 Astronomy- September 2012
Black hole blues. Astronomers learned that as the supermassive black hole in a galaxy's center
becomes more energetic, as depicted in this artistically modified image of galaxy Arp 220, its rate of
star formation noticeably decreases. NASA/jPL-caitech
Hungriest black holes thwart star growth
Deep within the centers of large galaxies lie mon-
sters — supermassive black holes. The most
active can devour gas and dust so messily that
the infalling material heats up and releases
energy. New findings in a Nature paper published
May 10 show that the most powerful active black
holes hinder star formation in their host galaxies.
"We want to know how star formation and
black hole activity are linked," says lead author
Mathew Page of University College London in
England. "The two processes increase together
up to a point, but the most energetic black holes
appear to turn off star formation."
Astronomers have long suspected that active
black holes could have this effect, likely because
the energy released by the black holes disturbs
and scatters the pools of cold gas required to cre-
ate stars. They had only scarce evidence of this,
however, until Page and his team compared star
formation rates and central black hole emissions
in 65 galaxies.
For the most part, the team observed a direct
correlation between the two. For galaxies with
the most active black holes, however, stellar
growth quickly dropped off. It will take more
research to determine whether this means that
the strongest black holes intrinsically hamper
star formation or that all galaxies will suffer the
same fate — the most active simply accelerate
the process. — B. A.
new benchmark for
Understanding a class of objects known as brown
dwarfs has challenged astronomers. These sub-
stellar bodies are more massive than giant plan-
ets but not massive enough to sustain nuclear
fusion in their cores, and scientists have had diffi-
culty constraining their properties. But a new dis-
covery, published in the May Monthly Notices of
the Royal Astronomical Society, could provide a
key benchmark in distinguishing these "failed
stars" from giant planets.
While combing through data from NASA's
Wide-field Infrared Explorer satellite, David Pin-
field of the University of Hertfordshire in the
United Kingdom and colleagues discovered
BD+01 2920B, a brown dwarf some 20 to 50
times as massive as Jupiter composed of more
than 99 percent hydrogen and helium and with
a temperature of only 760° Fahrenheit (400° Cel-
sius). The brown dwarf orbits a G-type star, the
same spectral type as the Sun, which is a more
readily characterized object than the red dwarfs
Brown dwarf benchmark. The newly discovered
brown dwarf BD+01 2920B is depicted in the
foreground of this artist's impression with its
stellar companion. Because the companion is a
common G-type star (the same class as the Sun),
astronomers could more readily constrain the
brown dwarf's physical characteristics.
scientists frequently find as companions to these
"ultra-cool" brown dwarfs.
Because its companion allowed the team to
better constrain the physical properties of
BD+01 2920B, it becomes a benchmark to test
cool brown dwarf atmospheres and potentially
study the abundances of these ultra-cool objects
in the universe. — KARRI FERRON
Astronomers caught the old star
WISE J1 80956.27-330500.2 in the
explosive process of throwing
off massive amounts of dust,
according to a May 20 paper in
The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
ARSENIC IN OLD PLACE
A May 1 paper in The Astro-
physical Journal announced
arsenic and selenium in a Milky
Way star previously thought too
old for such elements.
A technique to observe
Earth's lightning-related sig-
nature, known as Schumann
Resonance, also can study the
signal on other planets, accord-
ing to a May 1 paper in The
An online paper in Monthly
Notices of the Royal Astronomical
Society: Letters published May 15
determines that some of the old-
est galaxies evolved faster than
expected, allowing for planets
and even life much earlier in the
universe's history than thought.
THAR BE YARKOVSKY
Scientists at the May 19 Asteroids,
Comets and Meteors 2012 meet-
ing in Niigata, Japan, announced
measurements of asteroid
1999 RQ 36 so precise that they
observed the Yarkovsky effect
(based on the effects of absorb-
ing and emitting light).
The James Clerk Maxwell
Telescope (JCMT) in Hawaii
reached its 25th anniversary of
observations April 27.
The U.K.'s Science and
Technology Facilities Council
announced May 31 that it would
cease support for its Hawaii-
based telescopes (including the
JCMT) in the next two years.
NASA officially lent its Galaxy
Evolution Explorer (GALEX)
to the California Institute of
Technology on May 14, allowing
its mission to continue without
A paper in the May 22
Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences suggests
that planetary systems with
"hot Jupiter" type planets likely
preclude Earth-like worlds from
forming. — B. A.
SPACE SCIENCE UPDATE
Peering past a
galaxy's dark dust
Sensitive vision. Centaurus A (NGC 5128),
the most prominent radio galaxy in the sky,
is well-known for a dark dust band that
obscures its center. To peer through the dust
requires using longer wavelengths of light,
something the new Atacama Large
Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)
specializes in. By combining ALMA's
1 -millimeter observations with near-infrared
ones made with the European Southern
Observatory's (ESO) New Technology
Telescope, scientists were able to reveal the
position and motion of gas clouds in
Centaurus A's center. Greener features
indicate carbon monoxide gas coming
toward ALMA while more orange areas show
gas moving away. Such a distribution
indicates that the gas is orbiting NGC 51 28.
ESO released this new image May 31. — K. F.
Historic launch to ISS
At 3:44 a.m. EDT May 22, a rocket launched
from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Flor-
ida. But it wasn't just any launch. Atop Space
Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Falcon 9
was the unmanned Dragon spacecraft, set to
make history. Three days later, on May 25,
Dragon became the first craft from a commer-
cial company to attach to the International
Space Station (ISS).The reusable craft
remained at the ISS for five days and on May
31 splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
After the Falcon 9 launched Dragon into
orbit, the craft's sensors and flight systems
underwent a series of tests to ensure it could
maneuver properly before nearing the ISS.
First, its solar arrays deployed, and then the
door that covered the craft's sensors opened.
This allowed Dragon to test how it measured
its movement and later proximity to the ISS.
NASA had to give the OK for Dragon to
attempt to berth with the ISS; this would
wait until the craft underwent additional
maneuver tests hundreds of meters from the
station. On May 25, Dragon was allowed to
approach the ISS.
At 9:56 a.m. EDT, as Dragon came within
feet of the station, a robotic arm controlled
by ISS astronauts reached out, captured the
craft, pulled it toward the space station, and
attached it to the complex.
The next morning, ISS crewmembers
opened Dragon's hatch — a process that took
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Connection made. Crewmembers use the
International Space Station's (ISS) robotic arm
to grapple the Dragon spacecraft and attach
it to the station on May 25. On this day,
Dragon became the first craft designed by a
commercial company to berth with the ISS.
some two hours. Over the next five days,
astronauts unloaded 1,146 pounds (520
kilograms) of food, student experiments,
and other cargo from Dragon and filled it
with 1,455 pounds (660kg) of hardware and
additional items to return to Earth.
On May 30, the robotic arm pulled
Dragon away from the ISS and released it
for its journey home. Shortly after entering
Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft deployed
two sets of parachutes to slow its descent.
Dragon splashed down May 31 at 8:42 A.M.
PDT (1 1 :42 a.m. EDT) in the Pacific Ocean
about 450 miles (720 kilometers) off the
coast of Southern California.
This demonstration flight was SpaceX's
second under NASA's Commercial Orbital
Transportation Services agreement to coor-
dinate crew and cargo transfer to the ISS
with commercial companies. Dragon's his-
toric approach and berth show that the pri-
vate sector can, and will, contribute heavily
to future space exploration. — LIZ KRUESI
ie distance, in light-years,
to the most distant
>rotocluster of galaxies
ver found, according to
a May 10 paper in
'he Astrophysical Journal.
16 Astronomy- September 2012
Disappearing world. The Kepler telescope
caught the signature of a possible disintegrating
planet passing in front of its star, shown in this
artist's conception. NASA/jPL-caitech
Found: a star that
vaporizes its world
The Kepler space telescope continuously stares
at some 170,000 stars, looking for dips in light.
A regular drop in a star's luminosity could sug-
gest that this sun hosts a planet that crosses
its face from Kepler's viewpoint. The telescope
has found thousands of candidate planets with
this method. Researchers then take follow-up
observations and studies to determine if the
candidate planets are exoworlds or something
else. Occasionally, the Kepler data holds sur-
prising planetary systems.
One team analyzing observations and per-
forming computer simulations describes an
odd light pattern they think comes from a dis-
integrating planet in the June 10 issue of The
AstrophysicalJournal. They found that the light
from the orange star KIC 1 2557548 dropped
by various amounts every 1 5.685 hours. This
observation suggests that something blocks
the star regularly, but by different amounts.
Saul Rappaport of the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology in Cambridge and colleagues
determined that a binary planet system passing
in front of the star could not produce the obser-
vations. Instead, they calculated that the star
likely hosts a small planet that is disintegrating
from close proximity to its sun. A tail of dust fol-
lows the world, and this material blocks light
from the star, causing the odd pattern.
The scientists estimate that this possible
planet is at most twice Mercury's mass and
orbits so close to its star that its surface tem-
perature is a searing 3300° Fahrenheit (1820°
Celsius). KIC 1 2557548 vaporizes the world's
dust and gas, and according to calculations,
the planet will fully disintegrate in 1 00 to 200
million years. — L. K.
25 years ago in
Se Ptember l987
In the September 1987
issue, Donald Frederick
Robertson outlined an
ambitious plan for
studying Saturn and its
biggest moon in "Cassini," named for the
planned orbiter. The mission faced uncer-
tainty, but space research won out.
On July 1 , 2004, Cassini flew through
Saturn's rings and entered orbit, and in Jan-
uary 2005, the Huygens probe descended
through the mists of Titan's atmosphere.
The September 2002 issue
featured a look back at
seminal science program-
ming in "Beyond Cosmos"
Some two decades after the
premiere of Carl Sagan's PBS show, then
Managing Editor David J. Eicher fondly
recalled Sagan's influence in science educa-
tion. "He arrived like an alien visitor from the
world of academia," Eicher wrote. "Carl Sagan,
astronomy professor from Cornell, had
begun to change science forever." — B. A.
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The European Space Agency announced April 26 that Mars Express data analyzing
study our solar system's boundary?
disk of the galaxy like a horse on a merry-go-
round. As it does, it passes through areas of
the interstellar medium with different speeds
and densities, causing the heliosphere to
change in shape and size.
Understanding how the interstellar
medium affects the heliosphere is important
to learning how it protects us. For one, it is a
crucial layer of defense against dangerous
cosmic rays. As these charged particles try to
enter our solar system, the heliosphere
deflects most of them. Earth's magnetic field is
then usually able to shield us from the remain-
ing cosmic rays. However, astronauts on deep-
space missions cannot take Earth's protection
with them, so we must learn how and to what
extent the heliosphere can shield them.
Fundamentally, however, the IBEX team
and I are excited to study these boundaries
because they have been so surprising. Obser-
vations show just how little we understand
the outer reaches of the heliosphere. From the
unanticipated IBEX Ribbon to the "breeze" of
newly detected incoming interstellar neutral
particles and the lack of a bow shock in front
of the heliosphere (see page 19), there have
been discoveries everywhere we turn, and we
are looking forward to learning more!
The Interstellar Boundary Explorer
(IBEX) mission gives us the chance to
investigate one of the last unexplored
frontiers of our solar system — the
boundaries where our Sun's neighborhood
ends and the rest of the galaxy begins. The
focus of the mission is to understand what
causes these boundaries, how they change
over time, and what they mean for the future
exploration of the solar system and beyond.
In our solar system, the Sun emits a "wind"
of material. As the solar wind streams away
from the Sun, it races out toward the space
between the stars called the "interstellar
medium."The solar wind blows against the
ionized gas and clears out a cavity-like region
— the heliosphere.
Our heliosphere is like a protective
cocoon being inflated in the interstellar
medium by the solar wind. As our Sun orbits
the center of the galaxy every couple hun-
dred million years, it bobs in and out of the
Pasadena Convention Center
AND TELESCOPE SHOW
ASTRONOMY AND TELESCOPE
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* Two days of Astro Presentations
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Q meade _opt^ Astronomy celcstron
1 8 Astronomy • September 2012
! Asteroid family tree
Scientists with NASA's Dawn mission
!±! that is exploring Vesta have aged the
03 asteroid's huge crater: Rheasilvia was
created in a collision that occurred about
1 billion years ago. This is much more
recent than expected. The team also
reports in the May 1 1 issue of Science
that the amount of material excavated
by the impact suggests that most of the
observed asteroids and meteorites with
Vesta's composition were formed in this
specific collision. — L. K.
Scope's dual location
The Square Kilometre Array project
took a big step forward May 25 when
scientists announced that they had
selected a dual location for what will be
the world's largest and most sensitive
radio telescope. Mid-frequency aperture
arrays will be built in Southern Africa
while low-frequency aperture arrays
will be placed in Australia. Construction
should begin in 2016. — L K.
Less pressure. New data from NASA's Interstellar
Boundary Explorer combined with discoveries
from the Voyager probes suggest that the Sun
doesn't move fast enough through the galaxy,
and thus isn't creating enough pressure, to form
a bOW ShOCk. Southwest Research Institute
The solar system's
For decades, scientists thought the Sun's wind
of charged particles in addition to the solar
magnetic field create three distinct boundary
layers between the Sun and the rest of the gal-
axy; these collectively are called the helio-
sphere. By combining recent data from the
twin Voyager probes and NASA's Interstellar
Boundary Explorer (IBEX), though, astrono-
mers have determined that the Sun doesn't
plow through the galaxy fast enough to create
the expected outermost boundary. The results
appeared online May 10 in Science Express.
Voyager 1 and 2 have confirmed that the
first boundary layer (the termination shock)
exists, as they both passed through it years ago;
this is where the solar wind slows to speeds
below supersonic. Both craft have also seen evi-
dence of the second layer — the heliopause —
as they near it; at this layer, the inward pressure
from the galaxy's material balances the solar
Scientists predicted a third layer — the bow
shock — that arises from the Sun's protective
magnetic bubble ramming into galactic mate-
rial and thus slowing it. (A familiar example of a
bow shock is when a supersonic jet compresses
and pushes air aside.) IBEX measurements ear-
lier this year showed that the Sun is moving
about 7,000 mph (1 1,300 km/hour) slower than
the expected 59,000 mph (95,000 km/h)."That
might not seem like a huge difference, but it
translates to a quarter less pressure exerted on
the boundaries of the heliosphere,"says IBEX
principal investigator David McComas of the
Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio,
Texas (see more from McComas on page 1 8).
"There's a very different interaction, a much
weaker interaction, than previously thought."
Scientists say that instead of a bow shock,
the third layer is more like a "bow wave," and
thus the Sun's wind and magnetic field create
a gentler compression as our star moves
through the galaxy. — L. K.
Rare spectacle. Observers and telescopes across Earth, and satellites orbiting it, witnessed
Venus cross the Sun's disk June 5/6. This rare transit last occurred June 2004 and won't happen
again until December 21 1 7. On June 6, researchers with NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
released this image montage showing Venus' path across our star. Intense magnetic activity on
the solar surface is also apparent at the bottom of this photo. — L. K.
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Cosmic history '
Quest for the most
The search for the first structures in the universe has baffled astronomers
If the universe were ageless — if it had
always looked exactly as it appears
today — then gazing deeper into space
would offer no new insights. We would
see galaxies forever and ever. But the
discovery that the universe began as a Big
Bang altered our understanding of the link
between time and distance. Astronomers
know that the universe in the past appeared
quite different from the universe today. The
cosmos, scientists learned, has evolved.
Scientists have known for more than 300
years that light travels at a finite (although
tremendous) speed, since Danish astrono-
mer Ole Romer's studies of Jupiter in 1676.
Adam Frank is a member of Astronomy's
Editorial Advisory Board and a professor of
physics and astronomy at the University of
Rochester in New York.
20 Astronomy- September 2012
This recognition of inseparable links
between space, time, and light is thus
encoded in one of astronomy's basic mea-
sures: the "light-year," or the 5.88- trillion-
mile (9.46 trillion kilometers) distance that
a beam of light travels in one year. This
means that galaxies that lie 1 million light-
years distant appear to earthbound observ-
ers as they existed 1 million years in the
past. To look out into space is to see back
into different epochs of cosmic history.
Look back far enough, and you could
glimpse the beginning.
That was how the race to see the
moment when the universe started forming
structures — the quest to see the most dis-
tant objects — began.
Astronomers aim to observe the moment
when primordial gas transformed into
large-scale objects like stars and galaxies.
And although astronomers have been
searching for the most distant (and thus,
most ancient) objects for more than four
decades, a new generation of telescopes
promises glimpses of the era when starlight
first filled the night.
Back to the beginning
As is often the case in astronomy, the quest
began without scientists realizing just what
they had stumbled upon. "The story starts
around the late 1950s with quasars, or
'quasi-stellar objects,'" says Avi Loeb, a pro-
fessor of astrophysics at Harvard University
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and an expert
on the early epochs of cosmic evolution.
Each chemical element emits radiation at
specific wavelengths. Astronomers use these
elemental fingerprints to bin stars into dif-
ferent categories. Some stars, for example,
^F by Adam Frank
for decades. But telescopes now on the horizon promise to shed new light.
may show strong fingerprints of hydrogen
while others show the signature of helium
or calcium. Quasars appeared as point
sources — like stars — but astronomers
couldn't trace the patterns in their spectra to
any known element. Because these objects
looked like stars, scientists called them
quasi-stellar objects. The fingerprints were
"unlike anything seen before," says Loeb.
Were quasars telling astronomers that ele-
ments existed in space that did not exist on
Earth? Their real identities didn't come to
light until the early 1960s.
Then, Maarten Schmidt of the Califor-
nia Institute of Technology in Pasadena
solved the puzzle of what was happening
with the spectrum from one of the first of
these discovered objects, 3C 273. Schmidt
saw that the strange patterns in light were
really nothing more than the spectra of
A Whereas most modern-day galaxies contain billions of stars and display elegant structure, the
earliest galaxies were smaller clumps of primordial material. For decades, astronomers have been
searching for the most distant objects, and the current record-holder is a galaxy whose light has
been traveling toward us for 13.2 billion years.
common hydrogen shunted drastically to
longer wavelengths. Quasars, Schmidt real-
ized, were highly "redshifted."
If an object is moving toward an
observer, its light shifts to shorter (more
blue) wavelengths; if the object instead is
moving away from the observer, its light
shifts toward longer (redder) wavelengths.
Like the change in tone (and wavelength) of
a passing ambulance's siren, 3C 273's spec-
trum meant it was moving away from Earth.
More importantly, its recession speed was
higher than anything detected before.
Cosmologists measure distance in
terms of redshift (called z), which increases
the further back in time and space they
explore. But redshift doesn't march in lin-
ear fashion with time. Instead, it starts
small and heads toward infinity as one
gets closer to the universe's moment of
creation — the Big Bang. A redshift of 1
corresponds to a distance of about 7.5 bil-
lion light-years when the object emitted
that light. (The universe's expansion has
since moved the object farther away and
stretched the wavelength even more.) A
redshift of 10 marks a distance of roughly
13 billion light-years.
When Schmidt calculated 3C 273's veloc-
ity from its redshift, he found that the quasar
Laboratory value vs. redshift
4,102 Hy 4,861
1 = 0.1
L»Av** w *'' Av ^~^ iW '
H Y HP
The characteristic light signature — called a spectrum — of a quasar tells astronomers its redshift,
how far away it is, and how fast it is moving. Objects farther from Earth are receding faster. Researchers
compare a quasar's spectrum to laboratory light signatures (for example, hydrogen in this diagram) to
determ ine thiS J nformatJOn. Astronomy: Roen Kelly, after Mark Subbarao (University of Chicago)/Astrophysical Research Consortium/SDSS
was receding at 29,000 miles per second
(47,000 km/s) — 15.8 percent of the speed of
light. That movement is due to the fact that
everything on cosmic scales is expanding
away from everything else; astronomer
Edwin Hubble discovered this in 1929.
Using what's called the Hubble law,
Schmidt's quasar could be placed at roughly
2 billion light-years away from Earth. His
colleagues at the same time discovered that
the quasar 3C 48 has a redshift of 0.3675,
placing the object at some 4 billion light-
years from Earth when it emitted its light.
This colossal distance made it the farthest
object ever observed. The discovery started
astronomers racing into the depths of time
and space as they were driven to ask if there
are even farther objects.
With such enormous distances, quasars
became more than just an astronomical
curiosity; they became beacons for the sci-
ence of cosmology.
Heading into the dark
In the mid-1960s, scientists stumbled across
an odd all-sky signal. No matter what direc-
tion they pointed their radio antenna, they
saw microwave radiation. Astronomers soon
recognized that this microwave background
was light emitted a mere 380,000 years after
the moment that the universe came into
existence, at redshift 1,100. Before this time,
in the earliest epochs of cosmic history, the
universe was a roiling, superhot, superdense
"plasma" of particles and light photons.
As the universe expanded and cooled,
particles collided and sometimes formed
new, stable combinations. When tempera-
tures dropped enough, electrons and pro-
tons could join to form the first hydrogen
atoms. Before this combination into atomic
hydrogen, photons had been closely tied to
electrons and protons, and continually col-
lided and scattered off the particles. Once
the temperature cooled enough, the photons
could stream away with far fewer collisions.
Scientists say that this was the moment
when the universe became "transparent" to
the photons. Since then, cosmic expansion
has redshifted the released photons, which
had infrared wavelengths at the time, into
the microwave regime — it's called the cos-
mic microwave background (CMB) radia-
tion. The photons travel from one end of
the cosmos to the other without interacting
as often with matter. That is why astrono-
mers still can see them flowing toward
Earth from every direction.
While the universe may have become
transparent to the CMB photons, other
wavelengths of radiation suddenly found
their way barred. Atomic hydrogen is good
at absorbing visual-wavelength photons. In
a universe full of atomic hydrogen, any light
emitted in these bands is quickly absorbed.
Thus, when protons and electrons com-
bined into hydrogen atoms 380,000 years
after the Big Bang, it was also the beginning
of what astronomers call the cosmic Dark
Ages. In the search to learn the universe's
history, the CMB and these Dark Ages
would remain closely paired.
Quasars' true nature
"The CMB told us the universe began as an
ultradense, ultrahot soup of particles," says
Loeb. "That was 13.7 billion years ago. But
today we see galaxies and stars and lots of
empty space between them. How did we get
from there to here?" Quasars are a stepping-
stone to understand that question.
The first discovered quasars were some 2
and 4 billion light-years away, with redshifts
of 0.158 and 0.3675, respectively. "While
that was a big deal when they were discov-
ered," says Loeb, "we've now pushed much
farther back toward the beginning of struc-
ture formation and learned so much more
22 Astronomy- September 2012
In the mid-1960s, scientists stumbled
across an odd all-sky signal. No matter
what direction they pointed their
radio antenna, they saw
in the process." Ironically, one of those les-
sons is that quasars are not the best way to
explore the early epoch of structure forma-
tion in the universe. "They were not the first
thing created in cosmic history," says Loeb.
By the 1980s, astronomers understood
that a quasar was nothing more than the
central region of a galaxy containing a
massive, hungry black hole. Quasars act as
cosmic beacons because those billion-
solar-mass black holes pull in vast quanti-
ties of gas, which heats up and glows
intensely on its way down into the object
(only once it crosses the black hole's "event
horizon" boundary does the light become
trapped). That tremendous light output is
why quasars can serve as bright beacons
visible across vast stretches of space.
But these massive black holes require
time to be assembled. The earliest quasar
astronomers have discovered is at z=7.085,
or 770 million years into the universes his-
tory. "That means there are not many qua-
sars early in cosmic history," says Loeb.
The earliest structures
This paucity of super-high-redshift quasars
comes as no surprise to Loeb and other
The cosmic microwave background displays the beginning of structure in the universe. The color
differences indicate density fluctuations of just a few parts in 100,000 — these evolved into galaxy
clusters and voids through cosmic history, nasa/wmap science Team
The first redshift that scientists identified
belongs to 3C 273 (which emits a high-speed jet
seen in this X-ray image). This quasar is the
closest to Earth, about 2 billion light-years away,
but it was the second most distant object known
when astronomers learned its identity in 1963.
theorists. In their models of cosmic history,
structure starts small and builds its way up.
That is why the Holy Grail of high-redshift
objects is no longer the first quasars — it's
the first galaxies and stars.
"We have a standard cosmological
model," says Loeb, referring to the preci-
sion with which astronomers now know
the fundamental parameters governing
cosmic evolution. "That wasn't the case a
couple of decades ago."
Cosmologists know that the universe
isn't just the material they can directly
observe. It also contains mysterious dark
matter, which doesn't interact via radiation,
so scientists can't see it. The precision cos-
mology of today lets astronomers know the
exact mix of dark and normal matter that
the universe began with. And "just as
important," says Loeb, "from the CMB, we
have a really good understanding of the
density perturbations that existed early on
in the cosmic gas."
The perturbations Loeb refers to are tiny
lumps, or overdense regions, in the soup of
particles that emerged after the Big Bang.
After the release of the CMB photons, the
universe was able to cool to the point where
the gravitational force of these lumps could
begin working its magic. "The CMB tells us
exactly what the initial perturbations in the
universe looked like," says Loeb. "From
there, we can calculate what happened next
as gravity began pulling more and more
material into the overdense regions."
How to grow a universe
At around 100 million years after the Big
Bang (a redshift of about 30), lumps that
were just one part in 100,000 times more
dense then their surroundings during the
CMB's formation grew into light-year-
wide clouds of hydrogen gas. From their
calculations, astronomers believe these
early clouds contained hundreds of thou-
sands of solar masses — equivalent to the
size of globular clusters today. But unlike
the gas floating through space in our mod-
ern cosmic epoch, these clouds contained
no elements more complex than helium
and a bit of lithium.
"The elements that make up our bodies
are created inside stars through nuclear
fusion," says Loeb. "The first generation of
stars wouldn't have any of those elements."
In modern star-forming regions, light emit-
ted by elements like carbon and oxygen acts
as a refrigerant. As light leaves the gas, the
clouds can cool down and collapse under
their own gravity. In the absence of these
elements, the early clouds remained rela-
tively warm. "With no heavy elements, the
clouds tended to fragment into pretty mas-
sive clumps," says Loeb, "so the first popula-
tion of stars were themselves pretty massive."
While most of the largest stars in the
universe today hover around 100 times the
mass of the Sun, the first stars to form likely
were monsters weighing in at 300 or 400
solar masses. This era of giants didn't last
long, however. "As soon as the first super-
nova exploded, heavy elements made in the
heart of these massive stars got disbursed
into the surrounding medium," says Loeb.
After that, cooling became more effec-
tive. The next generation of star-forming
clouds could both lower their tempera-
tures and fragment more easily to begin
The quest to reach the beginning
at 380,000 years
YEARS AFTER THE BIG BANG
The universe began as a dense, hot point and has evolved into giant structures over 13.7 billion years. Scientists are searching for the time when the
first protogalaxies and stars formed — a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. So far, they've discovered a galaxy that existed 480 million years
after the universe began, but they expect even earlier objects. (The timescale of this illustration changes after the cosmic microwave background.)
The search ramps up
Years after Big Bang
• 3C 295
• QSOB1 442+1 01
• CL 1358+62 G1 and CL 1358+62 G2
• SDSS 1030+0524
SN 19941 (typelln)
• ULASJ1 120+0641
• GRB 090429B
SN Primo (type la)
KEY: • galaxy;* galaxy cluster;* gamma-
ray burst;* quasar; supernova
forming smaller stars — the kind we are
familiar with today. "This happens around
a redshift of 20 to redshift 10," says Loeb.
"Its also during this epoch that the first
true galaxies are forming."
The dispersal of heavy elements allowed
larger conglomerations of gas to collect,
including early protogalaxies. Simulations of
cosmic evolution show vast clouds forming
with masses of a billion or 100 million Suns
during this epoch — about the size of the
Milky Way's dwarf satellite galaxies. "The
gas cools down to about 10,000 degrees, and
that is when you get to see lots of star for-
mation beginning to occur," says Loeb. It is
somewhere around this time that the Dark
Ages began to lift.
Moving into the light
The initiation of large-scale star formation
is a key moment in the history of the uni-
verse. Stars produce a lot of ultraviolet
(UV) radiation, which can rip electrons off
hydrogen atoms to create hydrogen ions.
With enough UV light, such as that from
the first generation of stars, the universe
turns back into free protons and electrons.
"Once the galaxies start forming lots of
stars, they become ionization factories,"
says Loeb. Hydrogen ions don't absorb vis-
ible light, so astronomers can collect it
across great distances.
The epoch of reionization ends at around
redshift 7, or about 780 million years after
the Big Bang. Seeing into this reionization
era — the end of the Dark Ages — marks
the frontier of todays high-redshift race.
"These are the really important missing
pages in the photo album of cosmic history,"
says Loeb. "We can see galaxies like the
Milky Way forming all the way from 1 bil-
lion years after the Big Bang until the pres-
ent time. But we don't see the beginning of
the story'' Using a new generation of tools
that should come online in the next decade,
astronomers like Loeb hope to shed some
light on the universe's Dark Ages.
Seeing into the unknown
Astronomers plan to attack the problem of
moving to (and beyond) the first billion
years in a number of ways. For one, "you
can try and actually observe the neutral
hydrogen gas that makes the universe dark,"
says Loeb. That strategy requires moving to
lower frequencies of light, which translates
into longer wavelengths. Neutral hydrogen
naturally emits photons with a wavelength
of 21 centimeters, and those that start at the
distance of the cosmic Dark Ages stretch to
even longer wavelengths constituting low-
frequency radio waves. "There are projects
like the Low Frequency Array in Europe try-
ing to make these observations," says Loeb.
"The whole field is just getting started, but
it's going to be very exciting."
The infrared-observing James Webb
Space Telescope (JWST), slated for launch
in 2018, was specifically designed to see the
early phases of galaxy formation. Optical
24 Astronomy- September 2012
at 520 million years
1 » I . CLJ1449+0856 ,
■ ';t.\ at 3.2 billion years -\
light emitted by these distant young galax-
ies will have been highly redshifted into the
infrared. "J WST should, in principle, be
able to detect galaxies out to redshifts of 10
or 12," says Loeb. This equates to 480 to 350
million years after the Big Bang.
To get even further, a new generation of
monstrously large telescopes is in the plan-
ning stages. The first objects to form are so
far away that they'll appear exceedingly dim
and hard to observe. Only extremely large
telescopes have any hope of seeing them.
Groups in the United States are plan-
ning two of these huge instruments: The
24.5-meter Giant Magellan Telescope will
observe the southern skies from Chile
while the Thirty Meter Telescope will scan
the Northern Hemisphere atop Mauna Kea
in Hawaii. The Europeans are also planning
the 39.3-meter-wide European Extremely
Large Telescope for Chile. Together, all
three instruments will have much greater
sensitivity to extremely distant and dim
objects than anything available today. In
large part, the high-redshift race is what's
pushing these projects forward.
Hoping for the unexpected
For all his theorizing about the formation
of structure in the universe, Loeb is hopeful
that these upcoming huge telescopes will
discover something no one expected.
"While I would love to see our theories
confirmed, I would be even happier if
observers find results that are not in line
The Hubble Ultra Deep Field has allowed astronomers to discover galaxies at redshift 8 and even
10, marking the most distant galaxy found yet. To create the composite image, scientists used the
Hubble Space Telescope to stare at a seemingly "empty" area of space for 48 hours in three near-
infrared Wavelength bandS. NASA/ESA/C Illingworth and R. Bouwens (University of California, Santa Cruz)Ahe HUDF09Team
with our theoretical expectations," says
Loeb. "If they find exactly what we
expected, it would be kind of boring. I
mean, it will be good to claim we predicted
it all, but it would really be nice to see some
new physics we did not anticipate."
That, of course, is the beauty of science.
Somehow, 13 billion years or so ago, the
universe began creating structures. Today,
you and I are direct consequences of that
dark epoch when the first stars and galaxies
formed. Now astronomers who have strug-
gled for decades to see into that darkness
are poised to get the first good glimpse of
this hidden age of the cosmic story. If scien-
tific history is a good gauge, then Loeb will
not be disappointed, and the race will end
with more surprises and more questions. *
Visit www.Astronomy.com/toc to learn
more about the search for the first
structures using radio telescopes.
Brian May plays "God Save the Queen
from the roof of Buckingham Palace to
commemorate Queen Elizabeth II 's
Golden Jubilee on June 3, 2002.
e 2002 Arthur Edwards
26 Astronomy- September 2012 V
You know him best
as guitarist, singer, and
songwriter from the rock
group Queen, but Brian May
is also a Ph.D. astronomer,
popularizer of the cosmos,
enthusiast, and advocate
for animal rights.
by David J. Eicher
MS a LGGrldyGr^ Brian Harold May was shy, uncer-
tain, insecure. "I used to think, 'My God, I don't know what to do, I
don't know what to wear, I don't know who I am,'" he says. For a
kid who didn't know who he was or what he wanted, he had quite a
future in store. Deep, abiding interests and worldwide success
would come on several levels, from both science and music. Like
all teenagers beset by angst, it was just a matter of sorting it all out.
Skiffle, stars, and 3-D
A postwar baby, Brian May was born July 19, 1947. In his boyhood
home on Walsham Road in Feltham on the western side of Lon-
don, England, he was an only child, the offspring of Harold, an
electronics engineer and senior draftsman at the Ministry of Avia-
tion, and Ruth. (Harold had served as a radio operator during
World War II.) The seeds for all of May's enduring interests came
early: At age 6, Brian learned a few chords on the ukulele from his
father, who was a music enthusiast. A year later, he awoke one
morning to find a "Spanish guitar hanging off the end of my bed."
At age 7, he commenced piano lessons and began playing guitar
with enthusiasm, and his father's engineering genius came in handy
to fix up and repair equipment, as the family had what some called
a modest income. "We were very, very poor," says May.
As he explored music, Brian also discovered scientific pursuits
it school. "In the school library, there was this little book called
The Earth" he says. "It was written by the man who is now Sir Pat-
rick Moore, who has become a good friend in recent times. It had a
)icture of Earth on the cover and gave a history of Earth from its
formation all the way through the beginnings of life, and I was just
enthralled. I read it from cover to cover again and again."
The discovery of Moore, England's famous astronomy televi-
sion presenter, led to Brian staying up late to watch Moore's show,
The Sky at Night, on the BBC. "I begged my parents to stay up far
enough into the night," he says, "and I just became captivated by
the whole story of the universe. It's been a lifelong passion, some-
thing that's never left me. There's always a part of me who just
likes to go out and gaze up at the heavens if I'm fortunate enough
to have a clear sky."
David J. Eicher is editor of Astronomy. He has been a Queen fan since his
early teenage years, and enjoys being in the same group of fans of both
music and astronomy as Brian May.
One night in 1955, Harold May brought
home a Lonnie Donegan record and
shared it with his son. This was in the
midst of the skiffle craze of the mid-1950s,
when homemade instruments and Ameri-
can blues, folk, and pop coalesced with a
new generation of British kids turning on
to the new music. "I used to lie under the
bed covers with my little crystal set listen-
ing to Radio Luxembourg and all this stuff
that seemed very exciting and dangerous
and forbidden," he says.
May excelled in school, and he readily
says, "I had a lot of application, and I liked
achieving." His was an intellect that was
mathematical, ordered, and also quite cre-
ative. Astronomy and music each found a
comfortable home here. He entertained his
parents by writing a monologue about the
stars and speaking it over a playing of
A Brian May, age 15, plays
the newly constructed
guitar — built by him and
his father — dubbed, the
"Red Special," London,
1963. (His companion is
the family cat, Squeaky.)
Harold May/Brian May Archive
< Brian May's 1967 band,
1984, included (left to right)
schoolmate Tim Staffed, Dave
Dilloway, Richard Thompson,
John Garnham, and May.
Brian May Archive
"Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age" from Gus-
tav Hoist's The Planets. A collector, he
acquired toys, comics, matchboxes, and
before long a camera and telescope, the
latter homebuilt. The scope, which he still
has, is a 4-inch reflector.
"It was just a kit we bought at Tottenham
Court Road," he says, "which was famous
for bits of recycled stuff, ex-government
lenses, and electrical bits and pieces. Me
and my dad used to go down there and find
things, and we located a kit for making a
telescope that must have cost 10 pounds, I
don't know, and we made it together. It's a
small scope, but it still gives me pleasure
because even though I have a bigger tele-
scope now, the 4-incher can be wheeled out
in 10 seconds flat if there's something inter-
esting in the sky."
Another interest emerged to coexist
with astronomy and music. All May had to
do to acquire this fixation was to sit down
as a kid to breakfast. Weetabix, compressed
wheat in the form of a biscuit, is served
with milk at many an English table. "It was
a big thing when I was a kid," says May,
"and when you got your packet of Weetabix
in those days, you would get a free card
inside. An incentive for kids to badger their
mums to buy it!"
The card inside was a photographic ste-
reo card. Stereoscopy (stereoscopic, or 3-D,
imaging) was invented by Sir Charles
Wheatstone in England in 1838. The tech-
nique employs two nearly identical images
made from a slightly different angle that,
when combined by viewing through a spe-
cial device, appear to merge together to
produce a three-dimensional scene. The
process was huge in the United States dur-
ing and after the Civil War era, and was still
a novelty of sorts in the Great Depression
era when kids could drop a penny in the
grocery store stereoscope to see the won-
ders of the world in 3-D.
The 3-D imagery produced by stereos-
copy was a delight to the young May. "Sud-
denly, these two little flat pictures became
one in-depth view of whatever it was," he
says, "an animal or a city or a car, and to me
this was just magic. I thought, 'If people can
do this with photography, why don't they
do it all the time?'" And May had always
been fond of animals — yet another passion
that would rise up throughout his later life.
Enter the Red Special
As May began his teenage years, he con-
tinued to play guitar, borrowing one here
and there, a friend's Fender Telecaster or
Gibson SG. His talent was expanding by
leaps and bounds, and he had no instru-
ment of his own, unable to afford one. By
the spring of 1963, when May was 15, he
and his father decided to build their own
guitar. Designing and building an electric
guitar from scratch was no easy undertak-
ing, although Harold's engineering back-
ground and Brian's methodical,
mathematical mind helped the process
along. The project comprised 18 months,
producing one of the most famous guitars
in the history of rock 'n' roll.
Nothing like this instrument existed,
and it conspired to give May a unique tone
in playing pop music. The guitar's body
is made from oak, the neck from an
28 Astronomy- September 2012
▲ The zodiacal light photographed by Brian May in 1971 from the newly
created Observatorio del Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands. Brian May Archive
18th-century mahogany fire-
place mantle, the fret markers from
mother-of-pearl buttons taken from Ruth
May's sewing box, and the valve springs
used to balance the string tension were
salvaged from a 1928 motorcycle. The
Mays produced a carefully considered
instrument, and after varnishing in deep
red mahogany, the guitar took on the
name "Red Special."
The guitars clean tone also
came from the Vox AC30
amplifier, and Irish rocker
Rory Gallagher showed May
how to set it up and drive it to
achieve that tone. Another
part of the equation was a tre-
ble booster, which, as May
says, "drives the amp into
smooth distortion as it gets rid
of a little of the low end." Cou-
ple that with Burns' pickups
that May installed into the Red
Special, and you came out with
a unique sound in rock 'n' roll.
"It's a small
scope, but it
still gives me
out in 10
seconds flat if
ing in the sky."
< Tenerife Observatory
in the Canary Islands saw
Brian May working in 1971
on his coelostat, a flat-mirror
instrument that tracks the sky.
Brian May Archive
Another part of May's approach was the
unusual habit of using a British sixpence
coin as a pick. "I discovered the old six-
pence coin, which had a reeded edge, and
found that if I held it parallel to the strings,
it would produce a smooth, nice, warm
sound. If I held it at an increasing angle, I'd
get this rasp that mimicked the consonants
from articulating a voice. That was another
ingredient in making the
A fellow student, Dave
Dilloway, also played guitar,
and together with some
other schoolmates, they
formed an early band. The
coverage included music
from the Beatles, Manfred
Mann, the Moody Blues, and
other groups. By 1964, May
was getting used to his new
guitar and continued trying
out new personnel, forming
a band called 1984, the name
taken from the George Orwell novel. His
principal partner was vocalist and bassist
In the same year, British colonial rule in
the far-off African Republic of Zanzibar was
weakening. Now part of Tanzania, Zanzibar
was then separate, and the island nation was
cast into political chaos. One of the many
families moving away to other locales to
avoid potential violence was that of 17-year-
old Farrokh Bulsara, a Parsi who had grown
up in Zanzibar and also in India. (His father
worked for the British Colonial Office.)
Nicknamed Freddie, this young man was an
accomplished pianist and aspiring artist and
musician. With the revolution in Zanzibar,
the Bulsara family moved to London to
start life anew. In fact, they moved to a
small house in Feltham only a few hundred
yards away from that of Brian May.
For May, the balance between school and
music was a fine line that sometimes tee-
tered one way or the other. Described at the
time as "serious-minded" or even "shel-
tered," May was expected to excel at his
studies and then perhaps branch out and
play and experience the world a bit by the
time he was about 20. But many teenage
A Freddie Mercury and Brian May at the Marquee Club in London on December 20, 1972. © Queen production
4 The famous
is one of rock's
May has played
it for 48 years
Richard Gray, © Duck
musical groups were moving away from
their studies and following the Beatles' path
to glory, or so they thought. "I completed
my studies, O-levels [high-school-level
exams] , and applied for various universi-
ties," says May. Astronomy and space sci-
ence had become increasingly attractive to
him through his schoolwork.
Unlike most of his contemporaries,
May did it all. In the music world, he saw
Jimi Hendrix play in London, which trans-
formed and inspired his idea of guitar
playing and what it ought to be. 1984 was
busy playing gigs, May adorned in
Hendrix-style clothes and sporting Beatle-
like hair. On May 13, 1967, the band
played at Imperial College in London on
the same bill as The Jimi Hendrix Experi-
ence, the day after the latter released its
first album, Are You Experienced? lust
after the new year, however, May quit
1984. A new band formed by May and
Staffell recruited a blond-haired drum-
mer they had met in the bar at Imperial
College, Roger Taylor, age 18, who
hailed from Cornwall. They wanted
a "high-energy" drummer in the
mold of Mitch Mitchell or Ginger
Baker, and Taylor would produce
admirably. The new band that
started forward in 1968 would be
"Jimi Hendrix really opened up
the heavens," says May. "Its really hard
to imagine the world without Jimi
because he changed it so much. All of us
thought we knew what guitar playing was.
Jimi tore asunder all the limitations that
none of us really knew were there." May
saw Hendrix several times and sometimes
went with Freddie. "And it was always the
same — things would just be falling to bits
around him, but it was the sound of heaven
coming from the stage. Absolutely unrea-
Academics rolled forward, too. May
attended Imperial College, studying math-
ematics and physics among other subjects,
and was graduated with an upper second-
class degree. The physics was clearly lead-
ing to astronomy. On October 24, 1968,
May received his Bachelor of Science
degree in physics from the Queen Mother
at the Royal Albert Hall. Two days later,
Smile picked up considerable steam by
opening for Pink Floyd.
Operating on all cylinders, May now
applied for several academic posts. "I was
offered a job in Jodrell Bank, which was
just beginning to be an important radio
astronomy facility in England," he says.
"And Sir Bernard Lovell was there. That
was a dream, really, but — being the kid
that I was — I was so involved with music
in London and didn't want to leave my
friends. So I turned it down. I'm not proud
of it because I'm not sure it was the right
thing to do."
Instead, May accepted an offer to go to
Imperial College, which would keep him in
London, able to play music. May thought he
was going to do infrared astronomy, which
was really just beginning at the time. "The
strange thing is that Professor Jim Ring, the
30 Astronomy- September 2012
department head, was involved in optical
spectrometry at the time and looking to
radial velocities," says May. "And so I some-
how got hooked into this whole program!"
May thought he would be interested in
working on radial velocities, but "was a little
scared at the time because then spectrom-
etry was a little arcane, or so I thought."
Ring and his colleagues were interested
in a novel idea: looking at the radial veloci-
ties of particles in the zodiacal dust cloud
and beginning to understand how dust in
the plane of the solar system is moving.
"This appealed to me," he says, "so I said,
'Yes, I'm your man — I'll take this on as a
project!'" The researchers were looking for
"clean" spectral lines that would allow them
to detect Doppler shifts, indicating motion,
and they settled on magnesium I, which
corresponds to the easiest transition line of
the magnesium atom.
"We looked for it in the zodiacal light,"
says May, "and, of course, the zodiacal light
is not a very well-known phenomenon even
to this day. But we were looking at this
green line reflected in the dust and looking
for a shift in the frequency of that line,
which would then show us how the dust
was moving." May and his colleagues were
able to make a velocity map of the dust as
opposed to what everyone else was doing,
simply making positional maps. It was
somewhat revolutionary at the time.
And when he wasn't working away on
the dynamics of the zodiacal dust cloud,
May kept hammering away with Smile.
Throughout 1969, the band played gigs
around London, and they picked up, from
early on, an "ardent fan" who was "full of
suggestions." This fan desperately wanted
to be in the band and was quite a promis-
ing singer. "No," said May at the time. "Tim
[Staffell] is the lead singer. He'd never wear
it." The kid kept hanging around and
slowly began to be noticed more and more
by everyone. He was very shy but "cloaked
in a persona," May recalls. The kid was
Here comes Queen
Freddie Bulsara spent the
next few months looking for a
band to sing with. He spent
stints in Ibex and Sour Milk
Sea, but by early 1970 spats
and lineup changes left him
looking for a band again. He
and Roger Taylor each had a
"It's really hard
to imagine the
Queen got a big break when
Molt the Hoople included
them on a tour of England in
1 973. © Queen Productions Ltd.
stand, selling clothes
and gear, at London's
May, although still
involved with Smile,
was away, studying
astronomy in Tenerife
in the Canary Islands.
He had a Spanish
guitar on the moun-
tain he had recently
bought, and his professors, among them
Jim Ring and Ken Reay, found his playing
amusing. "I think Ken thought it was quite
funny," says May. "He had a sly little smile
on his face that said, 'Obviously, you'll
never get anywhere.'"
When May returned to London, he
found that Tim Staffell wanted to move
on, and after some coaxing, Freddie
wound his way into a new band that con-
sisted of May, Taylor, Bulsara, and, for
some months to come, a rotation of bass
players. Eventually, by mid- 1971, the guys
found a bassist who would
stay in John Deacon, a
19-year-old electronics stu-
dent from central England
who had played with some
other London groups.
Well before then, two
big name changes had oc-
curred. Freddie suggested
the new band's name,
The 1975 hit
"Bohemian Rhapsody" marked
a turning point for Queen's success. Here, the
band poses for a photo session for the single
COVer Of the SOng. OQueen Productions Ltd.
Queen, taken from the hippy world cen-
tered on Kensington Market, which prom-
inently included gay culture — and
Freddie would himself have gay relation-
ships, although at this time he was still
ensconced with his live-in lover, Mary
Austin. Secondly, Freddie had written a
song he really liked called "My Fairy
King," which included the line "Oh
Mother Mercury what have you done to
me?" Freddie decided on a dramatic stage
name change, and the world was intro-
duced, slowly at first, to Freddie Mercury.
The band's first demo led to a first
album, Queen, released in 1973. Its moder-
ate success produced a tour mostly in Eng-
land later that year.
< Queen in concert
during 1980's The Game
lOUr. o Queen Productions Ltd.
▼ A group shot of Queen
from 1979 during sessions
for The Game, later used for
the single release of "Save
Queen Productions Ltd.
Goodbye, for now,
During the Queen years,
astronomy remained a passion
in May's mind, but professional
astronomy went dormant. "If I
could ever maneuver my way into
a place where there were clear
skies at night, I would always do
that on tour," he says. "I kept in
touch with the guys at Imperial
College and read some of the lit-
erature, but I wasn't really a student
of astronomy during those years."
And yet he became a tour guide,
showing the sky to many other
musicians. "Lots of people really like that,
and, of course, it's incredible how many
people who live in cities rarely get to see the
Milky Way, for instance," May says. "There
were so many times when people have said,
'My God, I've never seen that!' when seeing
the planets, or star clusters, or M31. It's nice
to be able to share that with people who
don't know about it."
As with many bands of the era, despite
successful album releases and touring,
Queen's individual members were slow to
accumulate the benefits. This was partly
due to the crazy system of the companies
essentially fronting monies to the bands
that had to be paid back to the labels, and
to the dealings of the band's first manager,
Norman Sheffield, who would be savagely
remembered in Mercury's delightfully
nasty song "Death on Two Legs (Dedicated
to ... )," from the 1975 album A Night at the
Opera. But the band was achieving success
and becoming famous, so May abandoned
omy, for the time being, to get
on with rock 'n' roll. And Queen caught a
big break when they toured with the estab-
lished act Mott the Hoople.
A second album, Queen II, followed in
1974. The band toured England, Germany,
and other parts of Europe in support in
1974 and continued their moderate suc-
cess. Queen then went into its first tour of
the United States, Canada, and Japan,
which was planned for the first half of the
year. But waking up in Boston, Massachu-
setts, one April morning, May found he
was barely able to move. He gazed in the
mirror, and his face was yellow. Doctors
diagnosed him with hepatitis, and the tour
stopped, Queen flying back to England and
May recuperating in bed. A late 1974 tour
concentrated on Europe.
Released near year's end, Sheer Heart
Attack offered several hit songs, but it was
the album's second track, "Killer Queen"
— often claimed as "the most beautiful
song ever written about a prostitute" — that
really helped the band. At the time, Brian
lived in a single room apartment in Earl's
Court with his girlfriend, Christine Mullen.
"We mainly lived on fish in a bag and cod
fingers," he says. A London attorney, Jim
Beach, began extricating Queen from its
contracts, and soon the band signed with
EMI and had new management. Now its
success could move forward fairly. May and
Mullen married in 1974, and the couple
produced three children, James (now 34),
Louisa (31), and Emily (25).
The next release, A Night at the Opera,
made Queen international superstars. Not
only was the album full of memorable and
electric hits, but one of them,
Freddie's "Bohemian Rhapsody,"
exploded as a huge smash. It
began years earlier in Freddie's
mind as "The Cowboy Song," a
simple ditty that commenced
with, "Mama, just killed a man."
Inspired by the Beatles' "A Day
in the Life," the song became a
three-part "mock opera," in
Freddie's words, whose middle
operatic section married refer-
ences to Galileo, the 17th-
century Italian clown Scara-
mouche, Rossani and
Mozart's operatic character
Figaro, the Arabic prayer
expression "bismillah," and
the Spanish and Portuguese folk dance
known as the fandango.
There was also Brian's great sci-fi folk
song '"39," about interstellar travel; Roger's
rocked-out "I'm in Love with My Car"; and
John's sentimental "You're My Best Friend."
Not to mention Freddie's lasting "Love of
My Life" and Brian's working of "God Save
the Queen," which would be used again and
again as a live concert coda. Now Queen
had arrived with unrelenting momentum,
careening success, big money, unbounded
critical acclaim, and another major touring
romp in 1975 through Great Britain. From
then on, the mere first keystrokes of Fred-
die's, hammering out the intro to "Rhap-
sody," would produce screams and cheers in
concert. The sky was now the limit.
The next album, A Day at the Races,
contained one of May's best straight-out
rockers in "Tie Your Mother Down," which
became a live favorite. It also contained a
spectacular vocal gospel anthem, inspired
by Aretha Franklin and written by Mercury,
in "Somebody to Love," one of Freddie's
32 Astronomy- September 2012
Freddie Mercury and Brian May record "One
Vision" in the StUdiO in 1985. © Queen Productions Ltd.
favorites. "Freddie certainly loved that son
at the time," says May. "It was all about
Aretha Franklin for Freddie. She was a huge
influence. I said to some people that I think
sometimes Freddie wants to be Aretha in
pretty clothes. So it was very much gospel
construction and allowed him to sing in the
way which he loved."
The band toured the United States,
Japan, and Australia in early 1976. The
following year saw an enormously long
tour schedule around the world and the
release of News of the World, a spectacu-
larly successful album that contained two
explosive hits. Having challenged each
other to write "anthems" in which concert-
goers could participate to the fullest, Brian
composed "We Will Rock You," which
since has become one of the best-known
arena rock songs of all time. Its recording
with the double thump followed by single
hand clap came about when May found a
bunch of loose boards in a studio hallway
and the guys experimented with stomping
on them followed by a clap. Freddie pro-
duced the anthem "We Are the Champi-
ons," a song so bold and outrageous in its
ego that at first the other band
members thought they simply
couldn't do it.
The next album, Jazz, was
released in 1978 and again
contained some high-powered
hits. Just as "We Will Rock
You" and "We Are the Cham-
pions" were linked, Brian and
Freddie created a twosome of
songs for this release. Brian's
Brian May performs during the Montreal Forum show in early 1981 that was captured as the DVD
Queen Rock Montreal, e Queen productions Ltd.
'If I could ever
way into a
clear skies at
night, I would
always do that
Bottomed Girls" was lyrically linked to
Freddie's curious and poetic "Bicycle Race."
The album also contained "Let Me Enter-
tain You," which became a live favorite, and
Freddie's "Don't Stop Me Now," which sym-
bolized his increasingly rambunctious and
reckless lifestyle in the gay community.
When asked about his flamboyant and wild
antics, Freddie simply retorted, "I sleep
with men, women, cats, you name it."
The greatest band of the 1980s
Queen entered the 1980s with a new album,
The Game, and a new and ambitious tour
plan. This included the hits by Freddie "Play
the Game" and one of Queen's biggest songs,
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love." It also fea-
tured May's "Save Me," a hit and one that in
later years would be used as a symbol for his
campaigns against animal cruelty. Deacons
funk-inspired "Another One Bites the Dust"
would also be a huge hit for the band all
over the world. The band
also recorded an album to
serve as the soundtrack for
the sci-fi film Flash Gordon.
1982's Hot Space
included a big hit that
resulted from a chance ses-
sion with old London friend
David Bowie. "Under Pres-
sure" was an effort between
Deacon, who came up with
the repeating bass line,
Bowie, and the other three Queen mem-
bers — although at first May was unenthu-
siastic. The song and its famous scat
singing by Mercury nonetheless caught on
and became a huge concert staple.
Queen now routinely filled huge out-
door stadiums, and the band's incredible
musicianship, Freddie's outrageous stage
persona and amazing voice, and great songs
had it riding high as the greatest band of
the era. The pace was crushing, though,
and things had to slow down a little. In
1984, The Works included May's hard-
rocking "Hammer to Fall" and "Tear It Up,"
as well as Taylor's "Radio Ga Ga," inspired
by his infant son's words. "Is This the World
We Created ... ?," co-written by May and
Mercury, soared in concert as an acoustic
ballad. Deacon's "I Want to Break Free" was
a big success that didn't fare well in the
United States. The band's video featuring
the guys in drag didn't work in the Ameri-
can Bible Belt, and Queen lost steam in
America because of it.
Following another major tour, Queen
was convinced to play in a fundraising
event organized by Bob Geldof of the
Boomtown Rats, who hoped to raise sig-
nificant monies to combat widespread
famine in Ethiopia. Called Live Aid, the
event would consist of two concerts July
13, 1985, one at JFK Stadium in Philadel-
phia, Pennsylvania, and the other at Wem-
bley Stadium in London.
Brian May rocks out on a solo in 2005 during
the Queen+Paul Rodgers tour. ©Queen productions Ltd.
Amid an all-star lineup, Queen stole the
show during its 21 -minute set that opened
with "Bohemian Rhapsody" and closed
with "We Are the Champions." It was the
band's greatest moment, witnessed by 1.9
billion people, and played out on its favorite
stage at Wembley. May and Mercury closed
out the show later in the day by playing and
singing "Is This the World We Created ... ?,"
which seemed to have been made for the
cause. "We wrote that song together as a
rare event," says Brian. "We just sat down
and said we need something personal and
intimate, and talked about the state the
world was in. It was one of those great
moments when you can just feel it coming
out. That was one of the few times we col-
laborated directly in that way."
But what was May's biggest memory of
Live Aid? "Well," he says. "I think the
moment when everyone's hands went into
the air to 'Radio Ga Ga' was one, because
the audience had not paid to see us. It was a
great confirmation that people not only
knew the song, but also had seen the video
and knew what to do. The power of the
video was amazing because the whole sev-
enty thousand in the Old Wembley Sta-
dium just erupted into that synchronized
Live Aid reinvigorated Queen, and the
band launched into another album, A Kind
of Magic, and subsequent tour in 1986.
Some of the songs had been written for the
movie Highlander, and the hits were "One
34 Astronomy- September 2012
Vision," written as a shared credit by all
four; Taylor's "A Kind of Magic"; "Friends
Will be Friends," written by Deacon and
Mercury; and May's "Who Wants to Live
Forever." The tour, though limited to
Europe, was the most extravagant stadium
outing yet — and it would be the last one
with Freddie Mercury The last show all
four would play together came August 9,
1986, at Knebworth Park, north of London.
In 1988, rumors swirled around Mer-
cury's health as he appeared increasingly
thin and gaunt. Denials came out quickly
to protect him, but the truth was that he
had contracted HIV and was increasingly
ill. The band continued with albums but
stopped touring. 1988's The Miracle pre-
sented special highlights in May's "I
Want It All" and Mercury's "The Mira-
cle." Two years later, Innuendo was
released. The album featured three songs
that struck a special chord with fans, espe-
cially watching a clearly ill Mercury work-
ing through the videos "I'm Going Slightly
Mad," "The Show Must Go On," and "These
Are the Days of Our Lives." In November
1991, as he was terribly sick and bedridden,
Mercury issued a statement confirming he
did have AIDS, and he died 24 hours later.
The band's final album featuring all four
musicians, Made in Heaven, was released
four years after Freddie's death.
A new beginning — and
back to astronomy
During the late 1980s, May had many chal-
lenges. Mercury's illness had a depressing
effect on the band. "There was all that time
when we knew Freddie was on the way
out," he says, "we kept our heads down."
Moreover, May's first marriage ended in
1988, and he fell into a serious depression
that lasted into the early 1990s. He has even
stated that he contemplated suicide. "My
life was falling apart," he says. And, in a
way, astronomy was responsible for bring-
ing him back into a new life, one that came
together after his struggles.
"I was deeply depressed," he
says of this period. "I suppose I
would call myself a spiritual
person in a sense, but I don't
really subscribe to any of the
formal religions," says May. "I
went to this clinic in Tucson,
Arizona, when I was very down,
and they said, 'We have to find
your spirituality — what you
most enjoy' At the time, I couldn't think of
anything I enjoyed. I was just in a very
black place. And then eventually I figured
out, because of the beautiful skies there,
that one of my greatest joys was just look-
ing at the stars. So I feel anchored to the
universe in some way. It's quite a powerful
force in my life."
May says that seeing the dark night sky
from Tucson was a driving force in getting
him back on track. "I would look up at the
stars and see Orion and the winter Milky
Way and call them the brave stars because
there seemed to be such strength up there
that I could hook onto."
Music, of course, continued after Mer-
cury's death. There was the Freddie Mer-
cury Tribute Concert at Wembley in 1992.
May also recorded several works with a
changing lineup dubbed the Brian May
Band. For several years starting in 2005,
Queen+Paul Rodgers toured with the for-
mer lead singer of Free and Bad Company.
One of May's biggest musical moments
came in 2002 when he and Taylor played on
the roof of Buckingham Palace to help cel-
ebrate Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee —
and something like a billion people saw it.
More recently, the band celebrated its
40th anniversary with a release of its whole
catalog with numerous bonus tracks and
with a special book, 40 Years of Queen. And
May has many other musical activities,
playing here and there with British singer
Kerry Ellis and recording with rap singer
Dappy among them. A short time ago, May
and Taylor announced concert dates this
year as Queen, playing with American Idol
vocalist Adam Lambert. And May married
again in 2000, this time to Anita Dobson,
actress on the British drama EastEnders,
whom he had met in the late 1980s.
When asked about his own musical leg-
acy, May replies, "Well, I suppose 'We Will
Rock You' will be written on my tombstone
because that's the one which connected so
many people around the world. You know,
every day people send me clips of their
babies on YouTube singing it. Soon there
will be a fetus in the womb going 'boom
boom chick' with its feet and hands. I feel
happy that it encircled the globe like that."
Meanwhile, astronomy reemerged into
May's life with great force in the form of his
old friend Sir Patrick Moore. "Patrick has
been such a huge force in my life," he says.
"We met for the first time when Patrick was
playing himself in a radio drama that my
friend Dirk Maggs was making for the
BBC. So we actually did meet, and we did
get on like a house on fire and have been
firm friends ever since."
May had been out of astronomy for
some time, and Patrick "invited me back
in," he says. "I appeared on his Sky at Night
program, the very program I'd been allowed
to stay up late and watch as a kid. And from
time to time, Patrick would just say, 'Why
don't you finish off your Ph.D.?'"
May was skeptical. Hadn't the field
changed too much in 30 years? Moore told
him that in his particular area of motions
in the zodiacal dust cloud, the research
hadn't moved too much. "And the strange
thing is," says May, "I started to talk about it
in interviews, just as one of the things that
was on my mind, and somehow the head of
astrophysics at Imperial College heard one
of the interviews and called me, inviting me
to come back!" The offer was serious, and
so, as Brian says, "Who's going to say no?"
So Michael Rowan-Robinson served as
the advisor, and May finished the research.
In 2007, he submitted his dissertation, and
it was published by Springer- Verlag as A
Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal
Dust Cloud. The next year, he co-authored
a popular astronomy book, Bang! The Com-
plete History of the Universe, with Moore
and Chris Lintott, published by Johns Hop-
kins. And the following year, his interest in
In recent years, Brian May has found a comfortable mixture of music, astronomy, stereography,
and animal welfare activism — all of which were childhood passions. Brian May Archive
stereophotography produced a collabora-
tive book with Elena Vidal, A Village Lost
and Found, which presented the stereo
views of an Oxfordshire village taken by
T. R. Williams in the 1850s. (For more on
May's interest in stereo imagery, see "Brian
May's world of stereo astro pictures" in the
January 2012 issue of Astronomy.)
When he's not playing music, worrying
about astronomy, or fiddling with stereo
photography, May is passionate about ani-
mal welfare, and he blogs about it on his
website, www.brianmay.com. Fox hunting,
badger culls, and other activities raise May's
ire and keep him focused on journalists,
members of Britain's Parliament, and the
public with his energetic activism. "The
interest in animals was always there," he
says, "and I always promised myself that the
time would come when I could devote time
to doing something about it."
May is as busy as ever these days. "I'm
ashamed to say I get so little time to
observe the sky," he says. "I live in England,
where you don't get clear skies very often,
and if you do, you rush out with the first
telescope that comes to hand." His favorite
sky objects? "I get most excited about plan-
ets, so I'm a local man, really. I never get
tired of Jupiter and Saturn." He was also a
bit of a total solar eclipse addict for a while,
seeing four or five eclipses out of eight or
nine attempts. "That first time you see
totality, you really understand where you
are," he says, "on a piece of rock hurtling
around the Sun. It's an awesome feeling —
a life-changing experience."
Where does May see the next generation
of astronomy enthusiasts, with so many
young kids straying away from science?
"Well, I guess we're entering a phase where
knowledge for its own sake is not something
that's amassed in the brain," he says. "In the
days of Patrick Moore, you would learn lots
of facts and figures and details about every-
thing you came across. But I think things
have changed an awful lot. There's more
emphasis on using your smarts to analyze
what the facts mean, and more checking of
such a huge mass of data from references
that are so easily available now. I think we're
moving toward looking for the meaning in
things rather than just the pictures."
He adds, with a laugh: "Although I love
the pictures." ft
Enter to win an autographed copy
of Brian May's dissertation at
and check out the full biography of
Brian May at www.Astronomy.com/toc.
The Sky this Month
Martin Ratdiffe andAlister Ling describe the solar system's
changing landscape as it appears in Earth's sky.
Uranus reaches its peak
Uranus glows at magnitude 5.7 during September. It lies near the border
between Pisces and Cetus at opposition on the 29th. Astronomy. Roen Keiiy
Saturn and Mars
grace the twilight as
becomes the main
attraction in the morning sky as
it climbs high before dawn. Its
companion for the past several
months, brilliant Venus, now
hangs lower in the sky. The
morning "star" still offers early
risers a treat, however, particu-
larly when it passes near the
fine Beehive star cluster in mid-
September. In the solar systems
outer reaches, Uranus and Nep-
tune put on fine shows all night.
Our tour of the solar system
begins in evening twilight,
where three planets vie for
attention. The lead player
remains Saturn. The ringed
planet lies about 10° high in the
west- southwest an hour after
the Sun goes down in early Sep-
tember. Shining at magnitude
0.8, it appears brighter than any
other object in this part of the
sky. Virgo's brightest star, mag-
nitude 1.0 Spica, is a close sec-
ond. You can find this luminary
5° below Saturn.
The star and planet sink
lower with each passing day.
By months end, Saturn dips
below the horizon just 60 min-
utes after sunset. It will pass
behind the Sun in late October
and return to view before dawn
a few weeks later.
Saturn's low altitude means
we must view it through more
of Earth's turbulent atmosphere,
so sharp views through a tele-
scope will be hard to come by.
When to view
Locating asteroids /&■ A
<B> Visible to the naked eye
Ak Visible with binoculars
^ Visible with a telescope
Still, the ringed planet looks
mesmerizing and certainly is
worth observing at low to
medium magnification. In early
September, the ring system
spans 36" and tilts 14° to our
line of sight. By the time Saturn
returns to view in November,
the rings will tilt 18° and appear
even more spectacular.
If you look approximately
10° to Saturn's left in early Sep-
tember, your eyes will land
on Mars. The Red Planet shines
at magnitude 1.2, slightly but
noticeably fainter than Saturn.
Mars' ruddy glow contrasts
nicely with the ringed planet's
yellowish hue, particularly if
you take advantage of the extra
light-gathering power binocu-
The two planets don't stay
close for long. Mars moves rap-
idly eastward against the starry
36 Astronomy- September 2012
background and travels from
eastern Virgo through most of
Libra this month. On Septem-
ber 15, the planet passes 1°
south of the fine double star
Zubenelgenubi (Alpha [a]
Librae). Four days later, a wax-
ing crescent Moon lies a couple
of degrees to Mars' left. Unfor-
tunately, the planet doesn't offer
much to observers who target
it through a telescope. Its
5"-diameter disk shows little,
if any, detail.
Innermost Mercury makes a
brief appearance low in the west
as September ends. The planet
stands 14° east of the Sun on
the 30th, but most of that dis-
tance runs parallel to the hori-
zon and not perpendicular.
From 40° north latitude, Mer-
cury appears a mere 2° high 20
minutes after sunset. Observers
will need a flat, unobstructed
horizon and a pristine sky to
pick out the planet. Its one
Martin Ratcliffe provides profes-
sional planetarium development
for Sky-Skan, Inc., from his home
in Wichita, Kansas. Meteorologist
Alister Ling works for Environment
Canada in Edmonton, Alberta.
saving grace is that it shines
brightly at magnitude -0.4.
Pluto resides less than 1°
southwest of the easy-to-see
open star cluster M25 in north-
ern Sagittarius. This so-called
dwarf planet is one of the larg-
est solar system objects known
beyond Neptune. Pluto lies
far enough from the Sun, how-
ever, that it glows faintly at
The distant world's westerly
motion relative to the back-
ground stars halts September
17. It then heads slowly east
and a bit south and, by the 30th,
arrives within 7' of the 8th-
magnitude star HD 170120,
which is noticeable for its dis-
tinct orange color when viewed
through a telescope. Although
Pluto is difficult to see visually
in an instrument smaller than
10 inches in aperture, it's a nice
target for a CCD camera. In late
September, aim at the orange
star and take one 30-second
image on two or three consecu-
tive nights. You'll easily capture
Pluto and its nightly motion.
Neptune currently lies 55°
east of Pluto in the constella-
tion Aquarius. The eighth
— Continued on page 42
Polaris • ."
•. • *
.V** ' •aw
ES ' "
September^ 11 PM.
BMl«*< •*«■* .
The Epsilon Perseid meteor shower should produce about five
meteors per hour the night of September 9/10. Observers will have
Moon-free viewing during late evening. Astronomy. Roen Keiiy
Will Perseus erupt two months in a row?
September typically is a month of few meteors, particularly when
compared with the activity associated with August's Perseid
shower. But there is hope. The International Meteor Organization
(IMO) has identified a relatively new shower called the Epsilon
Perseids. In 2008, observers saw an unexpected flurry of bright
meteors emanating from Perseus. The shower remains active from
September 4 to 1 4 and peaks the night of September 9/1 0.
For Northern Hemisphere viewers, Perseus rises in late evening.
This leaves a few hours of dark skies before the Moon pokes above
the horizon shortly after midnight local daylight time. Although
the IMO doesn't expect a repeat of the 2008 outburst, the only
people who will know for sure are those watching the sky.
Rough seas mark a crater's debris
If there's a best face to the Moon, it's the thick crescent seen a day or
two before First Quarter phase. Smooth "seas" seemingly sport large
waves, big craters take your breath away, and small impact scars
stand out by casting long shadows. On the evening of September
20, the dramatic Serpentine Ridge is sure to grab your attention. This
feature snakes north-south across the eastern part of Mare Serenita-
tis (the Sea of Serenity). Geologically speaking, it's a compression
feature and not a frozen wave rippling through the lava.
Scan just south of the equator, and you'll find Theophilus, a sharp-
edged crater that spans approximately 60 miles. Although it remains
largely under the cover of night on the 20th, the Sun rises above the
crater's rim on the 21 st to produce a scene similar to the one pic-
tured here. That's the best time to examine its complex jumble of
central peaks and slumped terraces on the crater's walls. The impact
that created Theophilus spread a rugged apron of debris northward
into MareTranquillitatis (the Sea of Tranquility). Astronomers aptly
named this region Sinus Asperitatis — the Bay of Roughness.
Also look closely at the unusual double crater Torricelli, located
just north of Theophilus. Astronomers believe that its pear shape
comes from a single glancing blow and not two unrelated events.
Sharp-edged crater Theophilus stands out shortly before First Quarter
Moon. Look slightly north of this impact site for the jumbled terrain of
Sinus Asperitatis and pear-shaped crater Torricelli. consolidated Lunar ahos/umlpl
Essentially, what was left of the impacting projectile blasted through
the back wall as the crater was forming. Torricelli sits off-center in an
ancient battered bowl filled to the brim with lava.
The all-sky map shows
how the sky looks at:
10 p.m. September 1
9 p.m. September 15
8 p.m. September 30
Planets are shown
«0* < J
• AQ Uu - \
• Sirius :...: Open duster
• °'° Globular cluster
m jo LJ Diffuse nebula
3-0 -d}- Planetary nebula
- 5.0 O Galaxy
•it 1 fc
• b 7~,* it '
^m * # ***
Note: Moon phases in the
calendar vary in size due to the
distance from Earth and are
shown at Oh Universal Time.
Calendar of events
1 Venus passes 9° south of Pollux,
6 p.m. EDT
2 The Moon passes 5° north of Uranus,
8 P.M. EDT
3 Asteroid Parthenope is at opposition,
6 a.m. EDT
7 The Moon is at apogee (251, 21 7
miles from Earth), 2:00 a.m. EDT
8 The Moon passes 0.6° south of
Jupiter, 7 a.m. EDT
fc Last Quarter Moon occurs at
W 9:1 5 a.m. EDT
9 The Moon passes 0.6° north of
asteroid Ceres, 5 a.m. EDT
1 Mercury is in superior conjunction,
9 a.m. EDT
12 The Moon passes 4° south of Venus,
1 p.m. EDT
15 ^^k New Moon occurs at
^^ 10:11 P.M. EDT
1 7 Pluto is stationary, 5 p.m. EDT
18 The Moon passes 0.8° south of
Spica, 1 a.m. EDT
The Moon passes 5° south of
Saturn, 10 a.m. EDT
The Moon is at perigee (227,268
miles from Earth), 10:49 p.m. EDT
19 The Moon passes 0.2° south of Mars,
5 p.m. EDT
22 Autumnal equinox occurs at
1 0:49 A.M. EDT
M First Quarter Moon occurs at
™ 3:41 P.M. EDT
23 The Moon passes 0.4° south of Pluto,
3 a.m. EDT
24 Asteroid Pallas is at opposition,
1 1 p.m. EDT
27 The Moon passes 6° north of
Neptune, 7 a.m. EDT
Special observing date
29 Uranus reaches its 201 2 peak
today, shining at magnitude
5.7 and appearing 3.7" across
through a telescope.
29 Uranus is at opposition, 3 a.m. EDT
Full Moon occurs at
11 :19 p.m. EDT
30 The Moon passes 5° north of Uranus,
1 a.m. EDT
Mercury passes 1 .8° north of Spica,
10 p.m. EDT
Planets in September 2012
Distance (AU) from Earth
Distance (AU) from Sun
Right ascension (2000.0)
1 1 injf aw'c rYlAAhC ^ ots display positions of Galilean satellites at 4 a.m. EDT on the date shown.
South is at the top to match the view through a telescope.
8 o- CALLISTO
13 o ^fc^Q- JUPITER
14 GANYMEDE -^CN.'
* -- «*v-**
P O^ o- GANYMEDE
CALLISTO © CTVp
o £lO~ JUPITER
I Astronomy- September 2012
This map unfolds the entire night sky from sunset (at right) until sunrise (at left).
Arrows and colored dots show motions and locations of solar system objects during the month.
22 hi 3.0m
The planets in their orbits
Arrows and dots show
is September 29
Continued from page 37
When to view the planets
MIDNIGHT MORNING SKY
Jupiter (east) Venus (east)
Uranus (southeast) Jupiter (southeast)
Neptune (south) Uranus (west)
planet reached opposition and
peak visibility in late August,
and it remains a fine target
through binoculars and tele-
scopes all night.
You can find it in the same
binocular field as both 4th-
magnitude Iota (i) Aquarii and
5th-magnitude 38 Aqr (which
resides 2.5° north-northeast of
Iota). The planet begins Sep-
tember nearly 1° due east of the
latter star and closes the month
just 22' southeast of it.
Neptune glows at magnitude
7.8, just within range of hand-
held 7x50 binoculars. When
mounted on a tripod, the same
binoculars easily reveal Nep-
tune as well as many fainter
stars. Use your telescope and a
high -power eyepiece to see the
planets 2.4"-diameter disk and
Head one constellation far-
ther east, and you'll land on
the current home of Uranus.
This planet reaches opposition
September 29, when it lies
opposite the Sun in our sky
and remains visible from sunset
to sunrise. This configuration
also brings Uranus closest to
Earth, so it glows brighter and
appears larger through a tele-
scope than at any other time
this year. One day after opposi-
tion, the Full Moon passes 5°
north of the planet.
Uranus peaks at magnitude
5.7, although it doesn't appear
A dirty snowball invades the Herdsman
Comet hunters have no time to lose after darkness falls this month.
Head outside about 90 minutes after the Sun sets and find magni-
tude 0.0 Arcturus.This bright star lies low in the west and displays
a noticeable orange hue. (Use the circular StarDome map on pages
38 and 39 to locate Arcturus.)
Eight degrees southeast of Arcturus lies 4th-magnitude Zeta (Q
Bobtis, our jumping off point for locating Comet C/201 1 F1 (LINEAR).
You'll likely need a 6-inch or larger telescope and a dark country sky
to bag this faint fuzzball, which astronomers expect to glow at 10th
or 1 1 th magnitude. Try to observe during the second or third week
of September when the Moon is gone from the evening sky.
The comet will not be an easy target. Spotting it is like finding a
specific tree when you've been dropped into the middle of a forest.
Unless you've got a big scope, you likely won't see the comet at low
power. Bump up the magnification past 100x and slowly spiral out
from the position marked on the finder chart. Motion helps your eye
pick out a small, soft glow.
Although C/201 1 F1 soon will disappear in the Sun's glare, a
recently discovered comet — C/201 2 K5 (LINEAR) — should take its
place this winter. That would satisfy us until spring, when we may
see our first bright naked-eye comet in a few years. Astronomers
expect C/201 1 L4 (PanSTARRS) to reach at least 3rd or 4th magnitude
when it comes into view in March and April 201 3.
• Saturn j
• Spica 1
&&: w 1
' Looking west-southwest L
Mars, Saturn, and Spica dip deeper into the twilight during September,
but views early in the month should still be impressive. Astronomy, r,.™ Keiiy
perceptibly fainter at any other
time this month. Its magnitude
makes it just bright enough to
see with naked eyes if you
observe under a dark sky. Bin-
oculars or a telescope show the
planet with ease. A telescope
reveals Uranus' disk, which
spans 3.7" and displays a dis-
tinct blue-green hue.
You can find the planet on
the border between Pisces and
Cetus. It lies near the equally
bright star 44 Piscium. On Sep-
tember 22, Uranus appears 1.4'
due east of the star, and the two
will look like a bright double
through a telescope. Their dis-
tance remains the same on the
following night, but the planet
' • . •
. ' •
m • BOOTES
E Path of Comet C/201 1 F1^
• • X *
• '. / 15
• ' / 17
• • ■ •
Comet C/201 1 F1 (LINEAR) might reach 10th magnitude this month as it
treks through southern Bootes. Your best looks will come when the Moon
is gone from the evening sky around mid-September. Astronomy. Roen Keiiy
42 Astronomy- September 2012
Spy a mermaid swimming the autumn sky
The celestial embodiment of the mermaid Parthenope slides through
the constellation Aquarius the Water-bearer during September.
Glowing at 9th magnitude, the main-belt asteroid 1 1 Parthenope is
bright enough to see easily through a 6-inch telescope from the sub-
urbs or large binoculars from a dark-sky site. Wait until late evening
for this region to climb higher in the sky. It's also best to avoid the
beginning and end of the month when a bright Moon lies nearby.
No conspicuous stars occupy southern Aquarius, but a pair of
modest ones will get you to the asteroid's vicinity. Delta (8) Aquarii
and Tau (t) Aqr represent the stream of water running from Aquarius'
amphora into the mouth of Piscis Austrinus the Southern Fish. Par-
thenope passes within 1° of Tau in mid-September. Use the chart to
pinpoint the asteroid, or sketch the field and return to the same area
the next night; the object that moves is the space rock.
In January 2011, nearly 20 amateur astronomers timed Par-
thenope as it blocked the light of a background star. From these
observations, astronomers determined that the asteroid is a potato-
shaped rock 93 miles across its longest dimension.
Ninth-magnitude Parthenope marches through southern Aquarius
in September, passing within 1° of the moderately bright star Tau (x)
AqUarii at midmOnth. Astronomy: Roen Kelly
then appears southwest of the
star. By month's end, 18' sepa-
rate the two objects.
Brilliant Jupiter dramati-
cally changes the familiar
appearance of Taurus the
Bull, standing less than 10°
northeast of the Hyades star
cluster all month. Although the
giant planet rises before mid-
night local daylight time, the
best views come as it climbs
higher before dawn. It shines
at magnitude -2.4, making it
the brightest night-sky object
other than the Moon and
Venus. The Last Quarter Moon
passes within 1° of Jupiter the
morning of September 8.
The planet puts on a show
for those who view it through
a telescope. Jupiter's equatorial
diameter grows 10 percent this
month, from 39" to 43", as it
approaches Earth. The gas
giant's dynamic atmosphere is
one of the solar system's visual
highlights, and it's on display
every clear night. The most
prominent features are two
dark equatorial belts that strad-
dle a brighter zone and the
Great Red Spot, which now
appears a subtle pink. Under
good conditions, a series of
alternating belts and zones
appears. Experienced observers
patiently watch Jupiter over
many minutes to catch occa-
sional moments of great seeing,
when fine details pop into view.
You need no experience
to marvel at the planet's four
bright moons: Io, Europa,
Ganymede, and Callisto. Their
orbits carry them into different
configurations each night and
often from one hour to the
next. Use the diagram at the
bottom of page 40 to identify
Dazzling Venus rises around
3 a.m. local daylight time dur-
ing September. It appears
among the background stars
of eastern Gemini on the 1st,
some 9° south of lst-magnitude
Pollux. At magnitude -4.3, the
planet outshines the star by
more than 100 times.
Venus crosses into the decid-
edly fainter constellation Cancer
on September 4. But a stunning
alignment awaits observers Sep-
tember 12. That morning, a
waning crescent Moon stands
4° southwest of Venus while the
planet lies 3° southwest of the
Beehive star cluster (M44). The
scene should be nice with naked
eyes, but binoculars will deliver
the best views. On the next two
• • • ..•—••■-•.. •
. . \ ' -M44 . . • •••
• • , • • • ' ' 2
. E '* • 6 ft Venus
. * •
• * •
• • • ...
• • 1
September 1 2, 6 A.M. EDT . .
Venus meets the swarm of stars known as the Beehive Cluster (M44)
in mid-September. Binoculars deliver great views, particularly when a
waning crescent Moon joins the scene on the 1 2th. Asoonomy. Roen Keiiy
mornings, Venus passes 2.5°
south of the Beehive. The planet
spends September's final week
in western Leo, not far from
To see Venus well through
a telescope, wait until twilight
begins, which reduces the con-
trast between planet and sky.
During September, Venus' disk
shrinks from 20" to 16" across
while its phase waxes from 58
to 70 percent lit.
The autumnal equinox
occurs at 10:49 a.m. EDT Sep-
tember 22. As Earth orbits our
star, the Sun wanders against a
backdrop of invisible constella-
tions. It lies in Virgo at the equi-
nox, at the precise point where
the ecliptic crosses the celestial
equator. This brings nearly equal
portions of day and night to
most places on Earth except at
the poles, where the Sun takes all
day to circle the horizon. «
Black holes are the most astounding objects in
the universe. And at least 19 of them lurk within
the Milky Way. by Richard Talcott
ntil Swiss astronomers
Michel Mayor and
Didier Queloz discov-
ered the first planet
orbiting a Sun-like
star in 1995, scientists
faced a dilemma: They thought such
planets should be common, but they
had no proof. Fast-forward 17 years
and the verdict is in — the number
of confirmed exoplanets now totals
several hundred and should pass the
1 ,000 mark in the next year or two.
44 Astronomy- September 2012
The discovery of black holes fol-
lowed a similar trajectory. By the
early 1990s, most astronomers sus-
pected these bizarre objects existed,
but confirmation was hard to come
by. Scientists like to say that extraor-
dinary claims require extraordinary
proof, and things don't get much
more astonishing than black holes.
These bodies possess a gravitational
pull so powerful that nothing, not
even light, can escape their clutches.
Information about what happens
inside a black hole can never leave
— a cosmic equivalent to Las Vegas.
Fortunately, the suburbs of Vegas
are more forgiving. Material in a
black hole's vicinity suffers conspicu-
ously from the intense gravity. Way-
ward stars move abnormally fast, and
gas becomes superheated and radi-
ates copious amounts of light.
Astronomers confirm a black hole's
existence when they see these signa-
tures and can eliminate all other pos-
sible causes. In the past 15 years or
The black hole in Cygnus X-1 rips material from its supergiant companion in th
artist's concept. Most of the captured gas forms a broad, million-degree accretio
disk, but magnetic fields channel some of it into high-speed jets. NASA/cxc/M.wei SS
so, the tally of black holes in our gal-
axy has reached 19 — 18 reside in
X-ray-emitting binary star systems,
and one lurks in the Milky Way's
core. But many more likely remain
beyond astronomers' current reach.
From Newton to Einstein
In the late 1 700s, British professor
John Michell and French astronomer
and mathematician Pierre-Simon
Laplace advanced the idea of what
Laplace called "dark bodies." Using
Isaac Newton's concepts of light
and gravity, they reasoned that the
gravitational pull of a massive star
could be large enough to prevent
light from escaping.
Unfortunately, Newton's theory
could not describe what happens
when gravity grows this strong. That
understanding wouldn't come until
Albert Einstein developed his general
theory of relativity in the 1910s. Rela-
tivity, which treats gravity as a distor-
tion of space-time, allows physicists
to describe black holes in gory detail.
Still, it took decades before most sci-
entists considered these objects more
than theoretical curiosities.
The reality of black holes began to
emerge once astronomers understood
how massive stars die. If a star begins
life with more than about eight times
the Sun's mass, it will not experience
a quiet demise. When such a star
exhausts its nuclear fuel, its core col-
lapses. This triggers a shock wave
that destroys the rest of the star in a
The relatively nearby black hole Cygnus X-1 has a 9th-magnitude blue supergiant
companion that shines brightly enough to show up through amateur telescopes. You
can find it 0.4° east-northeast of the 4th-magnitude star Eta (n.) Cygni. Astronomy. Roen Keiiy
Track down a black hole
By definition, black holes give off no light. This makes the idea of trying to see one sound a
bit challenging. Fortunately, black holes don't always live in isolation, and one of the most
famous — Cygnus X-1 — has a partner that shows up through any backyard instrument.
Cygnus X-1 's stellar companion is a blue supergiant cataloged as SAO 691 81 . This star
shines at magnitude 8.9 in the central regions of the constellation Cygnus the Swan, which
passes nearly overhead on September evenings for observers at mid-northern latitudes.
Use the circular StarDome map at the center of this issue to locate Cygnus. Next, home
in on Eta (r\) Cygni, a 4th-magnitude star that lies 13° southwest of the Swan's luminary,
1 st-magnitude Deneb. Scan 0.4° east-northeast of Eta to find SAO 691 81 . It's the middle
object in a line of three equally bright stars. When you spot it, you won't be seeing light
from the black hole, but it will be literally from the next closest thing. — R. T.
brilliant supernova that can shine with the
light of 10 billion Suns. In most cases, the
core left behind weighs between 1.4 and 3
solar masses and has been crushed into a
sphere the size of a major city. A single
teaspoonful of this so-called neutron star
would weigh close to a trillion tons.
Yet even this exotic end state pales in
comparison with what happens to the
Richard Talcott is an Astronomy senior
editor and author of Teach Yourself Visual ly
Astronomy (Wiley Publishing, 2008).
rarest of stars that start life with more than
30 solar masses. In 1939, physicists J. Rob-
ert Oppenheimer and Hartland Snyder
showed that when such a star dies, its col-
lapsed core (which weighs more than three
Suns) is too heavy to settle down as a neu-
tron star. It creates a region of space-time
cut off from the rest of the universe because
no light can ever escape. Thirty years later,
physicist lohn Wheeler coined the descrip-
tive term black holes for these objects.
Black holes possess only three charac-
teristics: mass, spin, and charge. All other
Cygnus X-1 radiates strongly in X-rays because
the temperature in the black hole's accretion
disk surpasses 1 million degrees. The Chandra
X-ray Observatory captured this glow during a
16-hour observation, nasa/cxosao
SS 433 contains a normal star orbiting a compact
object, which is surrounded by an accretion disk
that feeds two radio-emitting jets. Astronomers
don't know if the compact object is a neutron
Star Or a black hole. AmyMioduszewski,etal.(NRAO/AUI/NSF)
properties of the collapsing star are lost.
And because stars rarely have any excess
positive or negative charge, mass and spin
describe most black holes.
A key feature of a black hole is its "event
horizon" — the radius at which a beam of
light would just fail to escape. Any event
that takes place within this horizon can
never be glimpsed from outside. For a non-
spinning, 10-solar-mass black hole, the
event horizon spans approximately 37 miles
(60 kilometers). Double the mass, and the
diameter also doubles. A black hole spin-
ning at the maximum possible rate has a
diameter half that of a nonrotating one
with the same mass.
The galaxy's black holes
Because telescopes cannot see inside the
event horizon, astronomers must search for
a black hole's impact on its immediate sur-
roundings. Some binary star systems offer
a perfect environment. The massive stars
that create black holes evolve quickly, typi-
cally running through their nuclear fuel in
a few million years.
After the star explodes (the companion
usually survives), the black hole's intense
46 Astronomy- September 2012
gravity may pull material from its neigh-
bors outer layers. This gas falls toward the
black hole and forms an accretion disk that
swirls around the invisible object like water
circling a drain. As the material moves ever
faster, friction among the atoms heats it to
millions of degrees. Gas at this temperature
emits lots of X-rays, which Earth-orbiting
observatories can detect.
So, to detect a black hole, astronomers
look for an X-ray-emitting binary system
comprising one normal star and an invis-
ible but massive companion. Lots of these
objects exist in the Milky Way, but not all
contain black holes. Neutron stars in a
binary can produce the same behavior, and
because they radiate little light, they can't
be detected across large distances.
To differentiate between the two possi-
bilities, astronomers need to pin down the
compact objects mass. General relativity
says that a stable neutron star can't weigh
more than three Suns. Any invisible com-
panion bigger than that must be a black
hole — assuming, as almost every scientist
does, that relativity accurately describes
such strong gravitational fields. To find the
object's mass, astronomers must measure
the binary system's orbit precisely.
Ronald Remillard of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in Cambridge
and Jeffrey McClintock of the Harvard-
Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (also
in Cambridge) have compiled the most up-
to-date list of black holes in binary systems.
Our galaxy contains 18; their locations and
properties appear on page 49.
But this list likely forms only the tip of
the iceberg. Remillard and McClintock
count 20 more binary systems that show
similar X-ray signatures but have no
detailed orbital information to provide
masses. (Astronomers haven't even seen an
optical counterpart in most of them.) And
nearly every scientist suspects far greater
numbers of black holes exist either alone in
space or in more widely separated binaries
that don't emit X-rays. Astronomers esti-
mate that the Milky Way holds between
100 million and 1 billion black holes.
The Swan's song
The most famous stellar-mass black hole is
Cygnus X- 1 (its designation signifies it as
the first X-ray source discovered in Cygnus
the Swan), which lies some 6,100 light-
years from Earth. It is the only one in a
high-mass X-ray binary system — its
Globular cluster Ml 5 may harbor a nearly 1 ,000-solar-mass black hole. Scientists continue to argue
if Ml 5 and other globulars contain intermediate-mass black holes. NA$A/ESA/rhe Hubble Heritage Team istsci/aurai
Eighteen of the galaxy's 19 known black holes weigh between three and about 15 times the Sun's
mass but have diameters the size of a small state. If intermediate-mass black holes exist, they would
extend a few Earth diameters. The central supermassive black hole spans 17 Suns. Astronomy. Roen Keiiy
companion star is a blue supergiant that
tips the scales at approximately 19 solar
masses. In fact, this luminous companion
shines brightly enough that it appears in
our sky as a 9th-magnitude star visible
through amateur telescopes (see "Track
down a black hole" on page 46).
The black hole in Cygnus X- 1 weighs
close to 15 solar masses, which makes it
the heaviest one known in a binary system.
The two objects orbit each other once
every 5.6 days at an average distance about
half that between the Sun and Mercury. As
matter in the accretion disk falls toward
the black hole, magnetic fields channel
some of it into a pair of high-speed jets
that emerge perpendicular to the disk.
Recent observations show that the black
hole rotates at more than 90 percent of the
The Milky Way's core contains a black hole weighing some 4 million solar masses. This supermassive
object, dubbed Sagittarius A*, glows at radio wavelengths (seen here) and in X-rays but disappears in
visible light because so much dust lies between Earth and the galactic center, nrao/aui/nsf
The other 17 stellar-mass black holes
reside in low-mass X-ray binaries. Most of
their companion stars have masses similar
to or somewhat smaller than the Sun. Still,
a few of these objects stand out. Astrono-
mers estimate the mass of GRS 1915+105
(a designation that comes from the Russian
Granat satellite and the object's sky coordi-
nates) in Aquila at 14 Suns, but with an
uncertainty of 4 solar masses, it could be
the heavyweight champ. This object also
spews jets that appear to travel faster than
the speed of light — an optical illusion that
arises because the jets move at about 90
percent light-speed toward Earth. It marked
the first time scientists had seen such
superluminal motion within our galaxy.
Meanwhile, GX 339-4 lies in the south-
ern constellation Ara and experiences fre-
quent X-ray outbursts followed by periods
when its emission decreases, but never so
far as to let its companion star shine
through. It's the only binary black hole
whose companion still eludes detection.
Just because a binary system behaves
oddly doesn't mean it possesses a black
hole, though. Few objects in the galaxy
sport the peculiarities of the high-mass
X-ray binary SS 433, which lies inside a
10,000-year-old supernova remnant called
W50. The explosion that created this glow-
ing remnant gave birth to a compact object
that now steals material from a massive
companion star. The gas forms an accretion
disk that powers two jets beaming in oppo-
site directions like a pair of rotating light-
house beacons. Many astronomers think
SS 433's compact object is a black hole, but
they can't rule out a neutron star.
Black holes in globulars?
The biggest stellar-mass black holes in our
galaxy appear to top out at about 15 to 20
times the Sun's mass. Yet a number of scien-
tists think much larger ones exist in some of
the galaxy's 150 or so globular star clusters.
Star-sized black holes likely formed in these
clusters early in their histories, more than
10 billion years ago, and fairly quickly sunk
to the center. But what happened to these
black holes? Some theorists think that they
merged with other black holes or neutron
stars and grew much bigger, while others
suspect that they encountered other stars
that then ejected them from the cluster.
Thomas Maccarone of the University of
Southampton in England and his colleagues
reported in 2007 on the best candidate for
a black hole in any globular cluster. They
found an X-ray source in a globular circling
the giant elliptical galaxy M49, located
some 50 million light-years away in the
Virgo cluster. The object emits far too many
X-rays to be a neutron star and so must be
an accreting black hole. Its mass exceeds 20
Suns but could be much higher.
The case for black holes in our galaxy's
globulars is more tenuous. Unless a black
hole actively feeds on material from
another star, it won't have an accretion disk
that glows in X-rays. The best alternative
method is to look at the brightnesses and
motions of the stars near a cluster's center.
Several research teams have examined
the Milky Way's largest globular, Omega
Centauri, to do just that. In 2008, a group
led by Eva Noyola of the Max Planck Insti-
tute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany
reported a black hole weighing 40,000 solar
masses. Just two years later, however, Jay
Anderson and Roeland P. van der Marel of
the Space Telescope Science Institute in Bal-
timore, Maryland, found no evidence for a
black hole of that size. At this stage, neither
side seems to be winning the debate.
A similar argument rages over the rela-
tively nearby globular M15 in Pegasus.
Some researchers claim the presence of
an intermediate-mass black hole weighing
about 4,000 Suns, while others find no such
evidence. Earlier this year, Jay Strader of the
Harvard -Smithsonian Center for Astro-
physics and his colleagues announced that
new observations show Ml 5 can't have a
black hole larger than 980 solar masses.
The beast in the middle
While strong evidence for intermediate-
mass black holes is lacking, the same can't
be said for their big brothers. Astronomers
have found compelling signs for a supermas-
sive black hole in the center of almost every
large galaxy they have scrutinized, and the
Milky Way is no exception. The core of our
galaxy harbors an object called Sagittarius
A* (pronounced A-star) — a black hole
48 Astronomy- September 2012
The Milky Way's
19 black holes
• . • *.
®: • • /
BIG DIPPER ' ••.
. * HERCULES *
." » * ' • ' . .
SCORPIUS * * •
■ • . . ._
" . GEMINI
. PEGASUS .
.. GRUS* *
* • **
• • •'
Black holes abound
in our galaxy, particularly in
the densely populated regions of its
plane. In this all-sky view, the plane runs
horizontally through the map's center. The numbers
correspond to their order in the table below. Astronomy. Ro*nK««y
Low-mass X-ray binary 4
Low-mass X-ray binary 1 1
Low-mass X-ray binary 4
Low-mass X-ray binary 7
Low-mass X-ray binary 7
Low-mass X-ray binary 7
Low-mass X-ray binary 9
Low-mass X-ray binary 10
Low-mass X-ray binary 4
Low-mass X-ray binary 6
Low-mass X-ray binary at least 6
Low-mass X-ray binary 7
Supermassive 4 million
Low-mass X-ray binary 7
Low-mass X-ray binary 5
Low-mass X-ray binary 14
High-mass X-ray binary 15
Low-mass X-ray binary 7
Low-mass X-ray binary 12
R.A. = Right ascension (2000.0); Dec. = Declination (2000.0); Spectral type and Magnitude are for the black hole's companion star; Period is the orbital period of binary systems in hours;
Distance is estimated in light-years; Mass is approximated in solar masses
XTEJ1 11 8+480
XTE J 1650-500
XTE J 1859+226
with about 4 million times the Sun's mass.
It's the 19th confirmed black hole in the
Milky Way, and it sits dead in the center.
The evidence takes several forms. First,
intense radio waves and X-rays flow from
an accretion disk that spans a region no
bigger than our solar system. But the proof
comes from careful tracking of the motions
of stars as they orbit the central mass. It's
the same method astronomers use to hunt
for globular cluster black holes, but the
huge size of the object in the Milky Way's
heart makes these motions far easier to see.
Analyzing the stellar orbits leads directly to
the black hole's mass.
The count of black holes in our galaxy
likely will continue to grow in the years
ahead, but it never will outpace the flood
of planet discoveries. The ability to find
planets has reached the stage where it's sur-
prising when a week goes by without a new
detection. Black holes hide their identities
much better, either behind the cloak of an
event horizon or in isolation from other
objects. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the
study of our galaxy's black holes is that
we've already found 19.'*
Watch a black hole devour a star at
The supermassive black hole at our galaxy's
heart is not a voracious eater. This X-ray image
reveals lobes of hot gas extending a dozen light-
years from the black hole (Sagittarius A*) but
only a small glow for the black hole itself.
Astronomy's experts from around the globe answer your cosmic questions.
Q 9 What is the circle that Earth's axis traces out in its
• 26,000-year precession cycle? What bright stars
would be close to it? — Tim Boyle, Nishinomiya, Japan
A 9 As Earth orbits the Sun, it also spins about its axis in
• just less than 24 hours. Our planet exhibits other
motions as well — the most dramatic of them is known
as precession. You can see precession every time you
spin a top. As the top begins to slow, it also starts to
wobble on its axis. A gyroscope does exactly the same
thing, and so does Earth. As a result, a line extending
from Earth's North Pole slowly traces a large circle
around the sky. It takes about 26,000 years to complete
one precessional cycle.
In 1000 B.C., ancient mariners such as the Phoenicians
had no convenient pole star to use for navigation. In the
5,000 to 6,000 years of recorded human history, Polaris
(Alpha [a] Ursae Minoris) is a relative newcomer to the
job of pole marker.
The sides of the great pyramids of Egypt align with the four
cardinal directions. In the 19th century, explorers discovered a
small shaft in the largest pyramid that pointed to the North
Celestial Pole. Four thousand years ago, Egyptian astrono-
mers were using the star Thuban (Alpha Draconis) as their
pole Star. As the centuries crept by, Thuban appeared to drift
away from the North Celestial Pole. Although it was never as
close to the Celestial Pole as Thuban, Kochab (Beta [p]
Ursae Minoris) served as the North Star around 2000 B.C.
At the height of the Roman Empire, there was no conspicuous
Earth's spin axis precesses and
traces out a circle over about
26,000 years. The brightest star
nearest the North Celestial Pole is
known as the North Star. Because
the axis points in a different
direction over time, the identity of
the "North Star" also changes.
North Star. Ancient travelers and seafarers had to use other
methods to determine the direction north.
About 1,000 years ago, people began using Polaris as
a standard for navigation. Alas, Polaris too will slip away
from the Celestial Pole. In 14,000 years, the brilliant star
Vega (Alpha Lyrae) will replace it. Vega is much brighter
than Polaris, but it will never come as close to the Celestial Pole
as the current North Star. At its best, Vega will be almost 10
Moon diameters away from that specific spot in the Northern
Hemisphere. — Raymond Shubinski, Contributing Editor
Q # How deep are the craters on the
• Moon? — Patricia Zavahir, Colombo, Sri Lanka
A 9 When the Sun is low on the lunar
• horizon, impact craters appear from
Earth as dramatic, deep pits with uplifted,
rugged rims. Although this appearance is
slightly deceiving, lunar craters are quite
prominent depressions. Planetary scientists
usually define the depth of an impact cra-
ter as the distance from the crater rim to
the crater floor. Well-preserved large
craters like Tycho (about 53 miles [85
kilometers] across), Copernicus (58
miles [93km] wide), and Aristarchus (25
miles [41km] in diameter) have rim-to-
floor depths of about 1 5,700 feet
(4,800 meters), 12,500 feet (3,800m),
and 9,800 (3,000m), respectively. If
Denali (Mount McKinley) in Alaska, the
highest mountain in North America mea-
sured from the base to the peak, were placed
on the floor of Tycho, its highest point
would rise slightly above the crater's rim.
In relative terms, however, these large
so-called "complex" craters are sur-
prisingly shallow features. Their
depths are only a small fraction, about
Vis to V25, of their diameters. So these
"deep pits" are actually shallower than
In contrast, fresh craters smaller
than about 9 to 12.5 miles (15 to 20km)
in diameter have much higher depth-
to-diameter ratios. A good example of
these simple lunar craters is Linne. It has a
diameter of 1.3 miles (2.2km) and a depth
of 1,800 feet (550m) — about the same as
the Statue of Liberty placed on top of the
Empire State Building. To compare with the
best example on Earth, Linne is about twice
50 Astronomy- September 2012
the diameter of Barringer Meteorite Crater
in Arizona, but almost three times as deep.
Linnes depth-to-diameter ratio (V4) is
similar to that of a soup bowl.
Because the Moon's diameter is
small, its surface is highly
curved, which makes the
close. This further
enhances the apparent 2 o
flatness of larger craters
to someone on the lunar
surface. (If a visitor were
6.5 feet [2m] tall, the
lunar horizon would be 10
only about 1.6 miles
[2.6km] away.) The
Moon's curvature "sinks"
the rims of larger craters
beyond the horizon. A o
structure would need to
rise very tall and be very
close for it to look high. — Teemu
Ohman, Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, Texas
THE FULL PICTURE
Q # Would it be possible to send a
• probe vertically above the solar
system's plane to observe the entire
solar system and capture a mosaic
photo? How far would it need to go to
get a complete photo of everything?
— Ken Warner, San Bernardino, California
A # Yes, this is possible. There are
• many ways to get out of the solar sys-
tem's plane (called the ecliptic plane), but
until an unusually large propulsion system
is available, a flyby of Jupiter or Saturn is
the best way to do it. The European/NASA
Ulysses mission (launched in 1990) used a
flyby of Jupiter to reach a six-year period in
an orbit over the Sun's north and south
poles. However, to reach large distances
above or below the ecliptic plane, the best
way to gain orbital velocity is via a flyby of
Jupiter and then a flyby of Saturn to throw
the spacecraft out of the ecliptic plane. The
Voyager 1 trajectory illustrates this tech-
nique (see image at upper right).
Voyager 1 launched September 5, 1977,
on a direct 546-day trajectory between
Earth and Jupiter. The Jupiter flyby placed
the craft on a 618-day path to Saturn, and
the Saturn flyby threw the craft out of the
ecliptic plane on an escape trajectory.
More than 12 years after launch, with the
Flyby of Jupiter
Flyby of '
craft 40 astronomical units (AU, where
1 AU is the average Sun-Earth distance)
from the Sun, engineers pointed Voyager
l's camera system back at the solar system.
From a position 22 AU above the ecliptic
plane, the craft recorded some impressive
images, including the famous "pale blue
dot" photo of Earth. Voyager l's Saturn
encounter could have been modified such
that the final Voyager orbit would have
passed over the poles of the Sun with an
orbital period of 181 years.
A typical planetary camera captures a
4° or 5° field. To get the entire solar sys-
tem in one field of view would mean
the craft would have to be 90° to the
ecliptic plane with a 75° field of view;
this would take 31 years after its Saturn
encounter (provided it follows a modi-
fied Voyager 1 trajectory). At the point
when the craft is 90° to the plane, it
would be 38.4 AU above it. —John D.Ander-
son, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (retired), Pasadena, California
VISITORS FROM BEYOND
Q # When will Comet Halley next
• pass near Earth? Are there any
other comets that will come close
enough to our planet that people in
the United States can see it at night?
— James Morris, Stockton, California
While Voyager l's mission
has been to explore the outer
solar system, researchers
could tweak a similar flight
path to launch a satellite
above the ecliptic plane to
image the solar system. In this
graphic, the planets appear at
the same positions they were
in when engineers turned on
the Voyager Imaging Science
Subsystem for the last time,
more than 1 2 years into its
mission. The yellow curve is a
possible alternative solar-
polar trajectory on which a
camera would capture a
mosaic of the solar system.
A Comet Halley will return to the
• inner solar system in 2061. The
world's most famous comet (officially des-
ignated Comet lP/Halley because it was the
first such object astronomers determined to
be periodic) revolves around the Sun once
every 75.3 years and last appeared in Earth's
vicinity in early 1986. It currently lies more
distant from the Sun than Neptune and
Pluto and is nearing the far point of its
orbit, which it will reach in 2023.
We probably won't have to wait
half a century to see another bright
comet. Unfortunately, astronomers
can't tell us when the next great one
will appear. Halley is the only short-
period comet that regularly becomes bright
enough to be obvious with unaided eyes.
The most spectacular of these dust-rich
balls of frozen gas are making their initial
trips through the inner solar system. As
their ices are exposed to intense sunlight
for the first time, they erupt with activity
and often grow long tails.
The list of dazzling newcomers since
Halley last appeared in Earth's sky includes
C/1995 01 (Hale-Bopp), C/1996 B2 (Hya-
kutake), and C/2006 PI (McNaught). Over
the past few centuries, Earth has averaged
roughly one bright comet every decade. So,
expect to see at least a few more before Hal-
ley makes its next foray into the inner solar
system — we just can't tell you when they
will arrive. — Richard Talcott, Senior Editor
Send your questions via email to: askastro@
astronomy.com; or write to Ask Astro, P. O. Box
1612, Waukesha, Wl 53187. Be sure to tell us
your full name and where you live. Unfortunately,
we cannot answer all questions submitted.
A||-j>i uaoy pue uoj|LM pjeipiy -.Muououhw : iiuip jlus
You should observe
the Full Moon!
Mountains and lava plains, rays, and a hint of color invite
exploring a bright Moon, by Michael E. Bakich
Observer 1: "It's clear. Let's set up the scope."
Observer 2: "Nah. It's Full Moon."
Observer 1 : "So, we'll look at the Moon."
Observer 2: "Are you nuts?"
I'm betting that if you haven't had this
conversation, you've gone through the gist
of it in your mind. Observe at Full Moon?
Observe what, exactly? The Moon's intense
light scatters through the sky, essentially
eliminating every deep-sky object that's not
a double star. And you certainly don't
observe the Moon when it's Full because
that's when the Sun lies highest in its sky on
the part facing us, killing all details.
Not so fast. Believe it or not, several of
our natural satellite's features are at their
best when its shape is roundest. That's
because in addition to formations that cast
shadows (like mountains and crater walls),
the Moon also contains albedo features,
which depend on differences in reflectivity
and color. (Oh, yes. Luna's surface displays
a range of subtle colors.) Albedo features
don't cast shadows under any lighting.
Three types of features are especially
great to observe when Earth's nearest
neighbor hangs like a ripe honeydew melon
in the night sky. Remember to let the Moon
rise as much as you can so you're looking
through less of Earth's image-distorting
atmosphere. Also note that if the view is
uncomfortably bright, many manufacturers
sell neutral density filters, which reduce the
amount of light reaching your eyes but not
change it in any other way.
Explore the seas
Early lunar observers dubbed the large, flat
expanses visible to the eye maria (Latin for
"seas") because they look like dark water-
filled basins. Today we know that, rather
than water, these large depressions contain
vast solidified flows of lava made of basalt.
The lava on the floors of the maria
appears much darker than the surrounding
highlands, which are mostly anorthosite.
That rock contains between 90 and 100
percent of the reflective mineral plagioclase
feldspar. The contrast between the maria
and the highlands is highest at Full Moon.
While Earth basalt tops out at about 14
percent iron, on the Moon that percentage
Perhaps the oddest ray system on the Moon
originates at the craters Messier and Messier A.
can reach 22 percent. Likewise, basalt has a
maximum of 2 percent of the mineral tita-
nium dioxide (TiO,) on Earth, whereas
lunar basalt can contain up to 13 percent
TiO,. Iron and titanium are dark materials
and contribute to the overall murky appear-
ance of the maria.
Furthermore, because different lava
flows have different concentrations of these
substances, the floors of the maria reflect
different percentages of light. You can
prove this to yourself by looking at the
Moon the next time it's Full. Even your
unaided eyes will show that some maria are
slightly darker than others. For example,
take a look at the three connected maria on
the Moon's eastern side: Mare Serenitatis,
MareTranquillitatis, and Mare Fecundita-
tis. Each of them appears darker than either
Mare Imbrium or Oceanus Procellarum on
the western half.
To see bright and dark areas within a
single mare, point your telescope at Mare
Serenitatis. Its center looks lighter than its
edges. The differences in composition are
because the two regions have different ages.
The outer areas date from between 3.8 and
3.85 billion years ago while the center
region may have formed as recently as 3.2
billion years ago.
The Moon also features a few craters
with ultra-dark lava-covered floors, and
these stand out best at Full Moon. The
prime example is Plato Crater, which
(0- .. Michael E. Bakich is on Astronomy senior
editorand author of 1,001 Celestial Wonders to
Plato Crater's floor is so dark that early observers called it the "Greater Black Lake." DaveTyie
See Before You Die (Springer, 2010).
54 Astronomy- September 2012
It's easy to determine the Moon's north-
ern and southern halves because they
correspond to those directions in our
sky. Figuring out east and west, how-
ever, is not so intuitive.
In 1961, the International Astronomi-
cal Union adopted the same system of
directions for the Moon as that used on
Earth. This means an observer on either
world sees the Sun rise in the east and
set in the west. So, when we look at the
Moon from the Northern Hemisphere,
the eastern half (the portion lit at First
Quarter) is to the right and the western
half (Last Quarter) lies to the left.
astronomers as early as the 17th century
referred to as the "Greater Black Lake."
Like the maria, Plato filled with dark
lava approximately 3.84 billion years ago.
Other craters with dark floors are Le
Monnier and Endymion.
During Full Moon, compare Plato with
Aristarchus Crater, our satellites brightest
such feature. It appears so dazzling because
it's young — only 450 million years old.
When you're viewing lunar features with
similar compositions, older ones will
appear darker because the process of space
weathering (by the solar wind, cosmic rays,
and micrometeorites) has affected them
longer. In Aristarchus' case, the material
thrown out by the impact that formed it
hasn't darkened much.
Trace lunar rays
Sometimes a dark surface covers lighter
material. If, as has happened millions of
times, a meteor hits the Moon, the impact
can splash some of what's underground
across the landscape. And the bigger the
meteor, the longer and brighter the splash.
Astronomers call such ejecta "rays." Most
resemble the spokes of a wheel and extend
for many times their crater's diameter. And
Full Moon is the best time to view them.
Tycho Crater has the most extensive ray
system. Some of its spokes reach as far as
930 miles (1,500 kilometers) from the
impact point. Tycho and its ray system are
so bright that you even can see them when
only earthshine (sunlight reflected from
Earth to the Moon's night portion) illumi-
nates the thin crescent Moon.
' Mare Imbrium
•* , '
Kepl r t*M
Messier* , / *
1'' X/i, *
Numerous lunar features are visible when the Moon is Full. This image corresponds to a "naked-
eye" view with north at the top and contains all boldface features in this story, Lkk observatory
The crater with the next most promi-
nent rays is Copernicus. Because it formed
810 million years ago, researchers struggled
for decades to explain why its rays — which
spread out for 500 miles (800km) — remain
bright. Current theory suggests that the
crater's impactor excavated bright highland
material and sprayed it across the dark sur-
face of Mare Insularum.
Copernicus, along with Kepler Crater to
its west and Aristarchus to Kepler's north-
west, form a right triangle of rayed craters
on Oceanus Procellarum that merits your
attention. A low-power eyepiece in your
scope reveals rays from each overlapping
those from the other two and bright pairs
of rays connecting all three.
You'll find a unique ray system in Mare
Fecunditatis associated with two small cra-
ters — Messier and Messier A — that you
simply must observe. Two straight, slightly
diverging rays more than 60 miles (100km)
long extend westward from Messier A,
leading most observers to describe the
scene as "comet-like."
Here a meteor first formed Messier and
then bounced to form Messier A. The
oblong shapes of the craters and the direc-
tion of the rays indicate a low impact angle.
Look for the colors
While it's true that the Moon doesn't dis-
play a vivid rainbow of hues, you can use
color filters to enhance what differences
exist. The basalt in the maria, for example,
appears a bit bluer than the anorthosite in
the highlands. So, to darken the maria and
enhance the contrast between them and the
highlands, try a red filter.
Note: Several manufacturers make filters
in different shades, for example, light-red,
medium-red, and red. Because you're
observing the Full Moon, use the darkest
filter. It will have the added benefit of cut-
ting down our satellites light.
To get slightly better views of the rays,
try light- or medium-green or yellow filters.
Depending on the color sensitivity of your
eyes, one of these filters may enhance the
contrast between the material splashed out
when the meteor created the crater and the
darker surface rock.
So don't be too hasty to cross off the
dates, as the song goes, "when the Moon
hits your eye like a big pizza pie." To many
amateur astronomers, that's observing! '*
Find more lunar features to target at
/:. • •. • i '•'•:•
Astronomy's third annual
cameras, and accessories produced in the past year, by
t's time again to survey the amateur
astronomy marketplace and announce
our 2012 Astronomy Star Products
awards. The 35 winners, listed here
alphabetically by manufacturer, represent
the best and most innovative pieces of astro-
equipment to come along in recent memory
Some are high-end, no-compromise prod-
ucts while others are low-cost items that
offer excellent value.
2 Astro Dome 2400
For Dobsonian owners, most commercial obser-
vatory domes are impractical because of the
height of their walls. Astro Domes, however,
designed its models to sit on the ground, offer-
ing unobstructed viewing from zenith to hori-
zon. Each rotates smoothly on nylon wheels,
while the shutter operates off a 12-volt battery.
Sizes range from the newest 2.4-meter (7.9 feet)
model up to 9 meters
(29.5 feet) in
AG Optical Newtonian astrographs
Catering to the growing trend in fast astro-
graphs, AG Optical offers 8-, 10-, 12.5-,
and 16-inch Newtonian reflectors
designed specifically with astroimag-
ers in mind. An incorporated optical
corrector ensures pinpoint stars over
a 50-millimeter-wide field, large
enough for most of today's CCD cam-
eras. Each scope incorporates a carbon-fiber
tube that is lightweight as well as stiff and stable
at all temperatures.
3 Astronomy Magazine: The Complete Collection
How has the science and hobby of astronomy changed over the past
nearly four decades? The best way to see for yourself is to scan back
issues of Astronomy. And now, you can e-thumb your way through
them all on your computer with this new compilation DVD that
includes every issue from August 1973 (the first) right up through
December 2010. Plus you get every issue
from former sister publications Deep
Sky and Telescope Making, all the maga-
zine's special issues, and a complete his-
tory of Astronomy magazine.
Phil Harrington is an Astronomy contributing editor and author of Cosmic Challenge:
The Ultimate Observing List for Amateurs (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
Some of today's most popular
telescopes are 6- to 10-inch
They offer great value, but
using them can be a pain
because of their low height.
Enter The DobStand, a riser by
Astronomy-Shoppe. At 20
inches (50.8 centimeters)
across, The DobStand
replaces the scope's ground
board. Simply adjust the
three aluminum legs any-
where between 15 and 20
inches (38.1 and 50.8cm),
and your telescope is
ready to go.
BinaryRivers' automated image-acquisition software for
Windows operating systems takes the guesswork out of
camera manipulation. It lets users frame, focus, and control
the exposures of their Canon digital single-lens reflex cam-
eras in real time all from the convenience of their computer
screen. BackYardEOS also integrates with autoguiding soft-
ware to automate dithering between exposures as well as to
control ASCOM-compliant focusers.
6 Catseye Deluxe Triplepack XLK
Nothing ruins the view through a telescope more than improperly aligned
optics. By design, Newtonian reflectors are especially susceptible to this
problem because of the way the primary mirror connects to the telescope's
tube. Recently, Catseye added a deluxe 2-inch three-tool collimation kit for
scopes with f/ratios between f/3.5 and f/6 to its product lineup. The kit
includes a Cheshire eyepiece, adjustable-length sight tube, two-pupil auto-
collimator, a template and two spots for center-spotting the primary mirror,
a bright red LED clip light, and a comprehensive set of instructions — all in
a custom carrying case.
7 Celestron CPC Deluxe
Celestron continues to refine
the Schmidt-Cassegrain design
the company pioneered half a
century ago. The CPC Deluxe
800 HD Computerized Telescope
features optics that produce crisp
images edge to edge as well as the
company's premium StarBright
XLT coatings. Celestron's NexStar
computer-control technology pro-
vides fast and easy alignment and a
40,000-object database. The re-
designed CPC mount includes a large
brass gear and matching stainless steel
worm gear. Add to that All-Star polar
alignment, which allows you to choose
any bright star, and you have an instru-
ment sure to stand the test of time.
8 Celestron Nightscape CCD Camera
It's amazing how inexpensive high-quality CCD
cameras have become. Celestron's new Night-
scape is a 10.7-megapixel color camera whose
backbone is Kodak's
the level of ther-
mal noise that
plagues all imag-
ing sensors. It
also comes with
which can control
the camera, capture
images, and process
unveiled two new
models in its SkyProdigy
lineup at the 2012 Con-
sumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas, Nevada. Like
previous telescopes in the
series, the SkyProdigy 6
Sch m idt- Cassegrain
features the company's
Technology. After you
set up the scope, a
built-in camera com-
pares the sky to a
database of more
than 4,000 objects
and aligns the
aiming system in
less than three
1 DobSTUFF Makeover kits
Do you have a stock Dobsonian-mounted Newtonian reflector that you
would like to improve with better
componentry? Or maybe you've
always wanted to make a telescope
yourself but lack the skills or the
woodworking tools needed for the
job. DobSTUFF's Makeover kits
contain what you need to turn your
off-the-shelf telescope into a cus-
tomized instrument that's as great to
look at as it is to use.
Explore Scientific 9mm 1 20° Series
Argon-Purged Waterproof Eyepiece
Looking for the eyepiece with the largest apparent
field of view? You'll find it with Explore Scientific s
9mm 2" eyepiece. Flaunting a highly corrected 120°
apparent field, this masterpiece produces sensa-
tional views of deep-sky objects. Every lens element
has enhanced multilayer deposition coatings and sits
securely in an argon-purged barrel to guard against
fungal growth and dust intrusion.
1 2 Explore Scientific David H. Levy Comet Hunter
Explore Scientific's 6-inch Maksutov-Newtonian telescope delivers
incredible sharpness across a broad field of view. Imagine
squeezing the full length of Orion's Sword into a single eyepiece
field with edge-to-edge pinpoint star images. That's what you
can do when you use this scope with the included 30mm eye-
piece. A high-quality focuser, a finder scope, and a carbon -fiber
tube complete this impressive package.
1 3 Farpoint Astro Armour Cases
Astronomers love to bring their telescopes and
cameras on vacation with them, but traveling
with such delicate instruments can be a harrow-
ing experience. Farpoint smooths out some of
the bumps with its heavy-duty Astro Armour
Cases. These rugged packages feature foam inte-
riors that you can customize to the exact size
14 Hands on Optics AstroTelescopes
102mm (4") f/11 Refractor
Traditional long-focal-length refractors are famous
for their sharp planetary and double-star images.
The AstroTelescopes 102mm refractor made by
Kunming United Optics in China delivers just
that at a remarkably low price. A dual- speed,
fully rotatable 2" Crayford focuser; an alu-
minum tube; and a pair of mounting
rings all come standard. Place this
12-pound (5.4 kilograms) scope
on a mount of your choice,
and you will enjoy
great views for
58 Astronomy -September 2012
1 5 Hubble Optics 16" f/4.5 Premium Ultra Light
Many observers need to travel far
from home in order to enjoy dark
skies. And hauling a telescope
with a large aperture in a small
car can often prove daunting.
But Hubble Optics' 16-inch
Newtonian makes the
effort much less intense.
Fully assembled, the
UL16 weighs only
about 60 pounds
thanks in part to
its mirror, which
1 7 JMI Telescopes ColliMotor
Amateur astronomers dislike collimating a Newtonian reflector
because the process usually involves running between the eyepiece at
the front of the telescope and the mirror cell at the back. The Colli-
Motor retrofit kit from JMI lets you adjust
the mirror at the eyepiece with a
hand-held controller while using
a collimation eyepiece or
laser. JMI makes
for Meade's 10-
to 16-inch Light-
bridge, as well as
1 9 Meade Series 5000 HD-60 eyepieces
Combining a 60° apparent field of view, 17mm of eye
relief, an adjustable eyeguard, and a price tag under $80,
Meade's new HD-60 eyepieces are a great deal. Focal
lengths include 4.5mm, 6.5mm, 9mm, 12mm, 18mm, and
25mm. If you must wear eyeglasses when you observe but
cannot afford to spend exorbitant amounts on premium
eyepieces, the HD-60 series offers an excellent choice.
16 Innovations Foresight ONAG
For astroimagers, guiding long exposures has
always been a challenge. The ONAG on-axis
guider makes that task a little easier. Inside, a
specially coated mirror diverts light 45° through
a side port to the imaging camera. Near-infrared
light, however, passes through the mirror
and then through a back
port, where an
That means you
of view you
1 8 Lunt Solar Systems LS35T
This Hydrogen -alpha scope provides a great way
to keep track of solar prominences and flares.
The 1.4-inch (35mm) refractor's single-stack
filtration system has a bandpass of less than 0.75
angstrom, making it ideal for visual observa-
tions. The LS35T includes a base for attachment
to a tripod and a foam-lined case. For an extra
$150, the deluxe version adds a Tele Vue
Sol Searcher finder and a
- 1 *i -^ >*V' ^-'^
20 Meade LX80 Multi-Mount
When it comes to telescope mounts, one style does
not suit all models. An alt-azimuth mount is best for
quick sessions while an equatorial mount is a must for
astroimaging. Enter Meade's LX80 Multi-Mount,
which you can configure in either mode. Both let you
take advantage of its go-to system, which contains a
30,000-object database. The alt-azimuth setup
even lets you mount two telescopes with a com-
bined weight up to 75 pounds (34 kilograms)
at once. The LX80 Multi- Mount weighs 35
pounds (15.9kg), and the tripod tips the
scales at 31.5 pounds (14.3kg). An adjust-
able stainless-steel tripod with 2-inch
legs completes this multipurpose
21 Meade LX800 Mount
Astrophotography continues to evolve at a furious
rate. Thanks to Meade's new LX800 German equatorial
mount and its integrated StarLock system, you can now
simply select a target from the more than 144,000-object
library to photograph. The mount, which uses the company's
AutoStar II go-to system, then slews to the object, locks onto it,
and automatically corrects tracking errors without any
external assistance. The adjustable-height tripod features
3-inch-diameter legs. Look for the LX800 with Meade's
10-, 12-, and 14-inch ACF catadioptric telescopes, as well
as its 130mm apochromatic refractor.
Technologies All Sky Cam
There's always a lot going on over our
heads. To follow the action, Moon-
glow introduced the All Sky Cam. It
gives a full-color horizon-to-horizon
view of either the daytime or night-
time sky. Watch clouds and the Sun
cross the sky during the day, and
stars, the Moon, planets, meteors,
and aurorae at night, all from any
television or Windows computer
with optional software.
23 Optics Planet Bushnell ARES 5-inch
Compact Truss Tube Dobsonian
Compact Dobs, like this
5 -inch f/5 Newtonian
reflector made exclu-
sively for Optics Planet
by Bushnell, are great
ions. To make the
5 even more com-
pact, it collapses to just 16
inches (41 centimeters) long. To
observe, just unlock and slide out
the two truss tubes, secure them,
and the scope is ready to go. The
ARES 5 kit includes 10mm and
25mm Plossl eyepieces, a red dot
finder, and a simple alt-azimuth
mount with rubber feet.
24 Orion StarShoot AllSky Camera
With its 180° fisheye lens, the StarShoot AllSky Camera can
keep track of the sky from horizon to horizon. The com-
pany also designed the camera to withstand all conditions,
so it can provide clear full-sky images any time. And the
Sun overhead won't
cause pixels to over-
load. The included
video capture soft-
ware also lets
your sky in
60 Astronomy -September 2012
25 Orion SteadyPix
Adapter for iPhone
With this adapter from Orion, you
can couple your iPhone3G, 3GS,
iPhone 4, or 4S to any telescope's eye-
piece to take photos of the Moon,
planets, and even some bright deep-
sky objects. Then you can share your
results nearly instantaneously by
email or social media. The adapter
comes with a clamp to fit eyepiece
housings up to 1.5 inches (38 mil-
limeters) in diameter. Orion sells a
larger clamp separately.
26 Quantum Scientific Imaging
583wsg CCD camera
QSI's top-end 583wsg camera uses
Kodaks highly regarded
8.3-megapixel KAF-8300 full-
frame CCD sensor, which has
a photoactive array of
3326x2504 pixels. Other
noteworthy features include
mechanical and electronic
shutters, a removable built-
in filter wheel that accepts
any standard \ l A" filter, and
the company's Integrated
Guider Port that picks off the
light from a guide star in front
of the filter. The company packs
each camera in a Pelican case.
27 SBIG ST-i Monochrome Planet Cam and Autoguider
Looking for a compact CCD imager for capturing the planets? SBIG's
ST-i model may be for you. Smaller and lighter than many stan-
dard 1V4" eyepieces, SBIG built the ST-i around Kodak's KAI-
340 chip, which has a 648x484 pixel array. The built-in
electronic shutter allows exposures as short as
0.001 -second, while the integrated mechanical shut-
ter can be used to generate dark frames. The ST-i
also makes a great autoguider. Its fast f/2.8 optics
allow you to guide on faint stars.
28 Sirius Astro Products Computer Cave
Many amateur astronomers bring laptops telescope-side, either as an
imaging aid or for viewing star charts. But laptop screens, even overlaid
with red gel, put out a lot of light. And they don't like dew. Enter the
Computer Cave, a shield that encloses your laptop, reducing the light
emits and pro-
tecting it from
dew. Made of
the 24-inch by
18 -inch by
i ^ 18-inch (61cm
by 46cm by
29 Southern Stars SkySafori 3
"There's an app for that" certainly rings true in
observing. One of the most popular planetarium
apps to come along recently is SkySafari 3. Avail-
able for iPhones,
iPads, and iPod
Touches using iOS
4 or later, SkySafari
3 has three differ-
ent levels. The Pro
version will show
you up to 15.3 mil-
lion stars, 740,00
550,000 solar sys-
tem objects. It also
will control your
cables or Wi-Fi
Another popular app for iPhone and iPod Touch
is Starmap Pro from Frances
Fredd. Not only does the app
display the sky at any time,
but it also lets you zoom in
and out on objects and offers
go-to telescope control, event
calendars, and a night-vision
mode. Most fun of all, Star-
map Pro can identify stars
and constellations in the sky
when installed on devices
with a built-in compass, like
the iPhone 3GS. Hold your
iPhone toward the sky, and
Starmap Pro will identify the
stars "behind" the phone.
Takahashi designed its 9.8-
inch (250mm) Mewlon-250CRS
Corrected Dall-Kirkham reflec-
tor with astroimaging in mind.
Thanks to a three-element cor-
rector lens made of extra-low
dispersion glass, an ASCOM-
compliant electric focuser that
moves the secondary mirror,
and a manual/ automatic
three-fan cooling system,
the Mewlon 250CRS
produces crisp flat-
field views of solar
system and deep -sky
32 Teeter's Solid Tube Series
Designed with apertures of 8 and 1 1 inches
and with moderate focal lengths, Teeter Solid
Tube Series (STS) Newtonian reflecting telescopes
are great for lunar and planetary observing. They also
provide great views of binary stars and bright deep-sky
objects. As with Teeter's truss-tubed scopes, their STS lineup
combines outstanding workmanship with high-quality optics
and materials to create heirloom-quality instruments. Each
scope comes with a Dobsonian mount.
33 Tele Vue Delos series eyepieces
Mention eyepieces, and Tele Vue Optics is bound to pop into the
minds of most amateur astronomers. Each Tele Vue Delos eye-
piece — 3.5mm, 4.5mm, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, or
17.3mm — features 20mm of eye relief and a 72° apparent field
of view. The long eye relief means that even eyeglass-wearers get
to enjoy the full field of view. And that field stays tack-sharp
from edge to edge, whether you're viewing the Moon, planets, or
your favorite deep-sky object.
34 Vixen Artes Binoculars
Vixen's Artes Binoculars, available in 8.5x45 and
10.5x45 models, feature extra-low dispersion
fully multicoated lenses, phase coating on
their BaK-4 roof prisms, long eye relief,
and waterproof, nitrogen-filled barrels.
Their no-compromise design guarantees
exceptionally sharp images of all targets,
whether terrestrial or celestial.
35 Vixen BT81S-A
Combining a pair of 3. 1 -inch f/5.9
refractors, Vixens BT81S-A is ideal
for anyone who — like me — thinks
that two eyes are better than one.
spaced doublet objectives snap
images into focus, while an optional
alt-azimuth mount and tripod keep
those views steady and secure.
62 Astronomy -September 2012
Astronomy's Star Products v mfnmmmn ,
# 1 COMPANY 1 PRODUCT
PRICE I WEBSITE
$6,695 to $20,195
Astro Dome 2400
Astronomy Magazine: The Complete
$30 ($38 with
Deluxe Triplepack XLK
$349 to $375
CPC Deluxe 800 HD
Nightscape CCD Camera
$495 to $795
9mm 120° Series Argon-Purged
David H. Levy Comet Hunter
Astro Armour Cases
$79.99 to $249
Hands on Optics
AstroTelescopes 102mm (4") f/1 1
1 6" f/4.5 Premium Ultra Light
ONAG on-axis guider
$259 to $289
Lunt Solar Systems
LS35T Hydrogen-alpha telescope
$598 to $749
Series 5000 HD-60 eyepieces
All Sky Cam
$399.95 to $419.95
Bushnell ARES 5-inch Compact
Truss Tube Dobsonian
Orion Telescopes and Binoculars
StarShoot AllSky Camera
Orion Telescopes and Binoculars
SteadyPix Adapter for iPhone
Quantum Scientific Imaging
QSI 583wsg CCD camera
Santa Barbara Instrument Group
ST-i Monochrome Planet Cam and
Sirius Astro Products
$2.99 to $59.99
Solid Tube Series telescopes
$1,475 to $1,975
Tele Vue Optics
Delos series eyepieces
$999 to $1,099
BT81S-A Binocular Telescope
by Stephen James O'Meara
M82: The // marquee // galaxy
An unexpected, almost electric display makes this star city an unusual target.
It's hard to come away from a star party
without feeling inspired, especially from
shared experiences with others. Con-
sider the February 2012 Winter Star Party
(WSP) in the Florida Keys, where Vic Men-
ard of Bradenton, Florida, shared a peculiar
visual phenomenon associated with star-
burst galaxy M82 in Ursa Major. If you
sweep your eye across the galaxy's major
axis, he said, beads of "starlight" pop in and
out of view like "twinkle lights on a Christ-
mas tree." The puzzle is that images of M82
show no obvious stars projected against the
galaxy's bright center.
Menard first noticed the phenomenon at
the 2010 WSP while enjoying a view of M82
through his 22-inch f/4 Dobsonian reflector
at 32 lx. Among the numerous tendrils of
dust near the galaxy's eruptive center, his
eye caught sight of a curious "dark bay with
a solitary star near its center." Under sharper
focus, he detected several dimmer "very
small" stellar points nearby.
Suddenly, these points "winked out of
view," only to be replaced by others "ever so
slightly peripheral" to the first ones. Men-
ard and his companions could see any-
where from six to a few dozen of these
At the 2012 WSP, I counted seven of
these mysterious spots through the same
scope at the same power. And when I let
my eye drift about, these lights flickered in
and out of view along the galaxy's major
axis, like a row of chasing lights in a mar-
quee. What was going on?
Some of this, some of that?
I proffer the possibility of a brightness-
contrast illusion, coupled with flickering
effects resulting from the shifting of averted
vision while scanning.
Certainly, the view of M82 through
Menard's large and finely collimated reflec-
tor was spectacular — a mottled mess of
light patches and dark streaks squeezed
into a fuzzy cigar-shaped disk that domi-
nated the field of view. The veins of
▲ Starburst galaxy M82 shines spectacularly in
this Hubble Space Telescope image; spying it
through a backyard scope, on the other hand, can
reveal what seem like secret shimmering stars.
► The unexpected "stars" glittering along M82's
major axis (sketched here through a 22-inch
scope at 321 x) may be the result of bright gas
poking irregularly through darker dust lanes.
darkness formed an irregular scrim
through which mismatched patches of
extragalactic light burned forth in a linear
(though slightly wavy) fashion.
The mysterious "star fire" in M82 appears
to be glowing gas peeking through these
dusty filaments, which may also enhance
their contrast. "A white spot surrounded by a
dark environment will appear brighter as the
latter is darkened," explained Matthew Luck-
iesh in his 1922 book, Visual Illusions: Their
Causes, Characteristics and Applications. In
M82's case, the light and dark regions seem
to reinforce each other in such a way as to
create flickering "stars" where none exist.
The effect appears roughly linear because
we see the enhanced spots along the major
axis of this nearly edge-on system, like dew
drops reflecting sunlight on a blade of grass.
The "stars" turn on and off successively in
brightness because we're shifting our gaze
from averted to more direct vision, respec-
tively, during the visual sweeps.
In 201 1, Menard and his wife, Lynne,
observed a similar twinkling network of
stellar points around the star formation
areas in the Box Galaxy (NGC 4449) in
Canes Venatici. "Again," he said, "we've
observed this galaxy numerous times
before in various apertures and magnifica-
tions, and we had never seen this."
I'd like to know if you can detect this
phenomenon in M82, or other galaxies,
through smaller apertures. As always, let
me know what you see and think at
Browse the "Secret Sky" archive at
64 Astronomy- September 2012
See reports on 350+ products at
Attention manufacturers: To submit a product
for this page, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tele Vue Optics
Chester, New York
Tele Vue Optics' Delos EDL-03.5mm
eyepiece has a 72° apparent field of
view and 20mm of eye relief. The com-
pany applies matched multicoatings to
each optical surface. The unit weighs
1.1 pounds (499 grams) and features an
adjustable eyeguard system.
Orion Telescopes and Binoculars
Orion's DSLR Camera Cooler chills imaging sen-
sors for Canon 1100D, 1000D, 550D, 500D, 450D,
400D, and 350D cameras. The 51 -watt Peltier
cooler lowers the tempera-
ture inside in the insulated
chamber up to 43° Fahren-
heit below ambient.
Orion's 5-Position 1.25"
Filter Wheel holds up to five
114" filters. The design protects
installed filters or eyepieces from dust, dirt,
and impact. The device requires an additional
0.79 inch (20 millimeters) of focus travel.
Meade's Series 5000 9mm HD-60
1.25" eyepiece offers a 60° apparent
field of view and more than 17mm
of eye relief. It delivers a 40 percent
improvement in corrections for chro-
matic aberration and edge distortions
over traditional Plossl eyepieces.
Celestron'sT-Adapterfor925, 1100, and 1400
EdgeHD optical tubes threads onto the tele-
scope's rear cell. This device lets you attach your
35mm camera to the prime focus of your scope.
The T-Adapter does require the
proper T-ring (not included),
which is specific to your camera.
[t] 310.328.9560 A P THEORY
Celestron's 80mm Guidescope Package
includes a 3.1-inch (80mm) guide scope and
125mm mounting rings. A metal focuser with
a tension screw minimizes mechanical play.
The included extension tube lets you achieve
focus without a diagonal. The unit is compati-
ble with the company's NexGuide Autoguider.
Of Water And Our
Solar System From
A Fission Process
With An Improved
(The AP Theory)
Author: Angelo Pettolino
THE FORMATION OF WATER
ANO OUR SOLAR SYSTEM FROM
A FISSION PROCESS WITH AN
PROVED HELIOCENTRIC MODEL
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THE ONLY COMPREHENSIVE DESCRIPTION OF THE
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Some of the most fundamental questions about the formation of water and
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This easy to read, essential book is a welcome
addition to the information presently being
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they haven't a clue as to how water formed. The
AP Theory comprehensively and logically
describes water formation, for the first time
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oxygen gases became water and where and how
the heat and pressure necessary to forge the gases
into water (H20) originated. The AP Theory
turns the astronomy community on its ear by
presenting questions which severely cloud the
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Internationally acclaimed for its controversial,
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The author's art series of 23 original cosmological
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by Tony Hallas
How I take pictures
Learn from a master the step-by-step process behind creating a beautiful astroimage.
Over the years, many people have
asked me to detail my "work flow."
They want to know: How do I take
a picture? That may seem like a simple
question, but, unfortunately, there is no
easy answer because every image (as begin-
ners soon discover) has its own personality.
In a perfect world, however, I try to fol-
low a pattern. I begin by analyzing the
nature of my target. Does it need deep expo-
sures to allow massive stretching (see my
November and December 2010 columns),
or is it a bright nebula (like the Rosette)
where short exposures will do? This will
dictate whether I shoot 90- or 15-minute
exposures and whether I combine 25 or five.
Do I shoot a separate luminance that
I'll combine with RGB data (my typical
procedure for a galaxy) with my 14.5-inch
f/9 reflector, or do I simply shoot RGB
images (like I do for most nebulae) with
my 71mm f/5.6 refractor? Tailoring your
equipment and imaging parameters to the
subject matter is the first step toward
achieving superior results.
Once I have enough exposures, I go
through and reject the worst. Issues like infe-
rior seeing, bad guiding, or focus still crop
up in some shots despite my best efforts.
After narrowing my selection, I use
Maxim DL version V to apply my darks and
flats (see my September 2010 column), and
to combine the pictures. I'm a big fan of the
multi-iterative "SD Sigma Combine" for my
combining, and I save the resulting 16-bit
FITS file as a "master" file of the respective
images. I also use Maxim DL to align and
combine my color frames into a master
RGB, saved in 16-bit FITS. (For more about
this process, see my January 201 1 column.)
From here, I use a software algorithm on
these master files that reverses the blur
mostly caused from poor seeing and sharp-
ens the images. (My favorite software for this
process, called deconvolution, is AIP4WIN.)
« . ■ • • • • ■ . ■ ■'••
:< ■ ■ .'
'-_ • • • \ •
- . ■ • i
• • •
Browse the "Imaging the Cosmos"
archive at www.Astronomy.com/Hallas.
The Triffid Nebula (M20), shown here, is
among the brightest targets in the sky, along
with other summer nebulae like M8 and Ml 7.
Because of this, only short shots are necessary.
For this image, the author took five RGB
exposures 10 minutes in length. As always,
knowledge of the subject matter is required to
achieve good results.
► M27 is a bright planetary nebula, so it
too provides a lot of light. Nine frames of
20-minute RGB exposures, combined with
nine frames of 30-minute exposures of
Hydrogen-alpha light, were all it took to
create this image.
Next, I bring these files back into
Maxim DL and convert them to 16-bit
TIFF files. The advantage of this is that I
can compress the files linearly to fit within
the 16-bit boundaries if necessary.
When I am satisfied with my data reduc-
tion, I import the files into Photoshop CS5 to
stretch the data using "Curves." I also use
"Levels" to reset the black point because
"Curves" brightens the image. Once I have
the stretched versions of the luminance and
RGB, I use Photoshop to clean up the images.
This might include removing satellite or
airplane trails, adjusting color gradients, and
dealing with any vignetting. Then, all that
remains is the "fun" part: emphasizing the
subtle elements of the image and using
noise reduction to smooth it out.
Sometimes after my first "journey"
through the data, I realize a different
approach would work better. With difficult
photos, I rework the image several times,
slowly "getting to know" the data and the
image better. This is common — accom-
plished imagers often realize that the best
approach to the processing only becomes
obvious after the first try. So don't feel dis-
couraged if your initial attempt didn't come
out perfect. Just go back and make it better.
Making an A-grade image requires
many steps. As with so much, you'll find
that good planning will help considerably. *»
66 Astronomy- September 2012
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70 Astronomy- September 2012
■ i reader
An annular solar eclipse
(Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
DSLR, Canon 17mm lens at
f/8, ISO 200, ttso-second
exposures, taken May 20,
2012, from Page, Arizona)
• Chris Schur, Payson, Arizona
► Reflection nebula
Sharpless 2-73 is a
molecular cloud in the
constellation Hercules the
Hero. It lies nearly 400 light-
years away and contains
between 20 and 40 solar
masses. (5.2-inch Takahashi
refractor at f/6,SBIG STL-
11000MCCD camera, LRGB
image with exposures of 360,
165, 165, and 165 minutes,
respectively) • Alistair
Symon, Marana, Arizona
The May 2012 annular solar eclipse allowed for a
vast array of image types. Wide-field photos were
common, as were individual shots through
telescopes and long-focal-length lenses, as in this
case. (Nikon D300 DSLR, 400mm Nikon lens with a
2x extender, giving an effective focal length of
600mm, f/8, Viso-second exposures, taken May 20,
2012, from Monument Valley, Utah) • Ben Cooper/
The Double Cluster (NGC 869 and NGC 884) in Perseus is a favorite target among astroimagers, but most shots of it are close-ups. This image, however,
shows the two open clusters in a wide field surrounded by red emission nebulosity. (Tele Vue NP-1 01 is apochromatic refractor at f/5.4, SBIG STL-1 1 000M
CCD camera, HaLRGB image with exposures of 22, 1 .1 5, 1 , 1 , and 1.15 hours, respectively) • Fabian Neyer, Abtwil, Switzerland
72 Astronomy- September 2012
Send your images to: Astronomy Reader Gallery, P. 0. Box 1612,
Waukesha, Wl 53187. Please include the date and location of the image
and complete photo data: telescope, camera, filters, and exposures.
Submit images by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ | reader
Strange planetary conjunctions are a favorite of this South American
imager. Here, the Moon, Mercury, Uranus, and the deep-red carbon star TX
Piscium all lie in the same region of sky an hour before sunrise. At the time
of this image, the Moon was a waning crescent that floated within the
Circlet asterism of the constellation Pisces the Fish. (Canon 5D Mark II
DSLR, Canon 24-1 05mm lens set at 73mm and f/4, ISO 3200, 1.6-second
exposure, taken April 18, 2012, at 6:21 a.m. local time, from Buenos Aires,
Argentina) • Luis Argerich, Buenos Aires, Argentina
All things high, low, weird, and wonderful in astronomy and space science, by Bill Andrews
European researchers announce a '
new ultra-compact motor capable
of lunar transport on just 0.1 liter of
fuel. Has the future finally arrived?
No thanks, money
The Giant Magellan
declines an opportunity for
National Science Foundation
funds, despite still needing
money to complete the
project. How , . . brave?
Cinematic star city
The UK Space Agency
refers to galaxy
Centaurus A as a "can-
nibalistic galaxy with
a powerful heart,"
which sounds more
like a movie tagline. •
Researchers studying 36-year-old
martian soil samples from the
Viking missions claim they've found
evidence of life; if so, we've finally
figured out who saw John Carter.
New York to Enterprise
A space shuttles flies once more
— sort of. Enterprise soars above
New York while snuggly mated to
its 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.
Science has reached the
point where it's easier to
count penguins from space
with satellites than actu-
ally going to Antarctica.
Nicki Minaj finally
drops her latest
of fans (unlike
Legendary exoplanet hunter Geoff
Marcy decides to try his luck in another
kind of hunt, as the next Chair in the
Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
at the University of California, Berkeley.
I British scientists reveal the
native sounds of Venus and
Mars, presumably after the
planets' cellphones got hacked.
of Chicago in
test fingers Earth
as moon's sole par-
ent." Gosh, I hope
this isn't how the
Moon finds out.
Next time on CSI:
Milky Way: the
grisly tale of a
around nearby star
sy of the European
of the American
saurs may rule M
over other ^j
asks NASA about
its alleged spilling
of state secrets.
Not quite the
sional interest in
space we were
NASA compares the
behavior of superno-
vae and black holes
to a leaf blower;
way to capture the
and wonder of the
The University of California, Los Angeles,
calls its new infrared spectrometer"a
'time machine' of sorts," which would
be truly amazing if it were.
Wow, space huh?
The International Space
Station will receive an
addition in 2014 allow-
ing for "low-cost access
to space." I remember
when that was the
space shuttles' job.
The approaching Mayan deadline
of 201 2 occasions the sudden
rise of the Internet's most com-
municable disease: cosmophobia,
the fear of astronomical events.
74 Astronomy- September 2012
Down to earth place ..Malms mild experience!
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BY MARTIN GEORGE
Darkness Down Under
When I started out in astron-
omy, it was great fun to "dis-
cover" the planets — to learn
which of the bright points of
light in the sky were members
of the solar system. I found it
particularly exciting to identify
elusive Mercury, which only
appears low in the evening
or morning sky.
And I still find it exhilarat-
ing to glimpse the innermost
planet. You can enjoy the same
thrill early this month as Mer-
cury wraps up its best evening
appearance of 2012. Although
the planet reached greatest
elongation from the Sun in
late October, the best views
through a telescope come as its
distance from Earth decreases
during the first ten days of
November. Plan to observe
about 45 minutes after sunset,
when the sky has started to
darken noticeably and Mer-
cury still lies several degrees
above the western horizon.
On November 1, Mercury
appears 7" across and half-lit.
By the 10th, its disk spans 9"
and reveals a 20-percent-lit
phase. The crescent shape
shows up nicely through mod-
erate apertures. Mercury dis-
appears in the twilight soon
thereafter, passing between the
Sun and Earth at inferior con-
junction November 17.
Mars has been a fixture in
the evening sky since March.
This month, it lies in the west
as darkness falls, to the right
of Scorpius the Scorpions tail.
The Red Planet is easy to iden-
tify because of its distinctive
color. Compare it with
Antares, Scorpius' brightest
star, which lies well to Mars'
lower left. Both shine at 1st
magnitude and exhibit a ruddy
hue. When viewed through a
telescope, Mars' 4" -diameter
disk appears featureless.
As darkness settles in, you
can find Jupiter rising in the
northeast. The largest of the
Sun's planets shines at magni-
tude -2.8 and easily dominates
the background stars of Taurus
the Bull. The planet looks daz-
zling by midevening.
For the best view of Jupiter
through a telescope, wait until
it climbs reasonably high in
the late-evening sky. The plan-
et's disk spans 48" across its
equator in mid-November and
45" through the poles — a dif-
ference that's easy to see with
small instruments. Also look
for two dark belts that run
parallel to each other, one on
either side of a brighter equa-
The remaining planets
reside low in the predawn sky.
Venus rises about 90 minutes
before the Sun. The brightest
planet shines at magnitude
-3.9 and appears as a beacon
low in the east. Unfortunately,
it doesn't gain much altitude
in the twilight sky. Like Mars,
Venus proves to be disappoint-
ing through a telescope. Its
disk measures only 12" across
and appears nearly full.
Saturn reappears in the
morning sky in late November.
On the 27th, it and Venus lie
only 0.6° apart. Venus shows
up without a problem, but you
might need binoculars to spot
the ringed planet this low in
the sky. Saturn then shines at
magnitude 0.7, less than 2 per-
cent as bright as Venus.
The month's biggest high-
light comes November 13/14,
when the Moon passes in front
of the Sun and creates a total
solar eclipse. Northern
Queensland in Australia will
be the center of the astronomi-
cal universe that day. Shortly
after the Sun rises on the 14th,
the Moon completely blocks
the Sun from view for up to
2 minutes and 5 seconds. See
"2012: a historic year for solar
eclipses" in the March issue for
details about this event.
A penumbral lunar eclipse
occurs November 28. Resi-
dents of Australia and New
Zealand have ringside seats
for this event, which begins at
12hl5m Universal Time (UT)
and peaks at 14h33m UT. At
maximum, 92 percent of the
Moon's diameter will lie within
Earth's penumbral shadow,
causing the Moon's northern
half to darken slightly.
The Moon occults Jupiter
twice this month. On Novem-
ber 2, observers in southern
Africa have the best view.
From Cape Town, Jupiter dis-
appears at 0h36m UT and
reappears at lh52m UT. Peo-
ple in southern Africa and
much of southern South
America can witness the
November 28/29 occultation.
From Rio de Janeiro, Jupiter
disappears at 23hl lm UT
and reappears at Oh 14m UT.
The starry sky
On spring evenings, Crux the
Southern Cross dips low in the
sky, appearing upside down
just above the southern hori-
zon. In much of the Southern
Hemisphere, Crux is a circum-
polar constellation, which
means that it never sets. But
that's not true from every-
where south of the equator.
Gacrux, the northernmost
of the Cross' stars, has a dec-
lination of -57.1°. So, the
Cross is circumpolar only
for latitudes south of 32.9°
south. But this won't always
be the case. I recently pon-
dered the question of what the
sky will look like in the distant
future as the position of the
Earth's axis precesses like
that of a spinning top. Over
a period of approximately
26,000 years, the axis traces
a large circle on the sky. And,
because the axis points toward
the celestial poles, they also
move with respect to the stars.
Currently, the Southern
Cross is heading southward. It
will be at its most southerly
position around the year
5900, when Gacrux's declina-
tion will reach -74.6°. This
will make it circumpolar for
latitudes south of 14.4° south,
which includes almost all of
Australia, Fiji, and the south-
ern third of Brazil.
At the opposite extreme,
Acrux (the brightest Cross
star) will push farthest north
around the year 18,600, when
it achieves a declination of
-29.4°. This will make the
Cross visible — at least parts
of it at certain times — from
the southern parts of Canada
and Scandinavia. By then,
however, the motions of these
stars relative to one another
will have changed Crux's
appearance so it looks less
like a cross. »
The all-sky map shows
how tha sky looks at:
1 1 p.m. November 1
10 p.m. November 15
9 p.m. November 30
Planets are shown
• . 7
-\ 7 v x
' **» # \
\ Kilt* 8
Sirius Open cluster
°-° © Globular cluster
1.0 ,— ,
|_| Diffuse nebula
3.0 -<J>- Planetary nebula
5.0 O Galaxy
\ \ . V
A *DRo M £ D ^
lis map: This map portrays the sky as seen near 30° south
ted inside the border are the four directions: north, south,
id west To find stars, hold the map overhead and orient it
) a direction label matches the direction you're facing. The
stars above the map's horizon now
match what's in the sky.
Star colors: Stars' true colors depend on
surface temperature. Hot stars glow
blue; slightly cooler ones, white;
intermediate stars (like the Sun),
yellow; followed by orange
and,ultimately, red. Fainter
stars can't excite our eyes'
color receptors, and so
appear white unless
Astronomy. Ro«n Kaity
Calendar of events
1 The Moon is at apogee (406,050
kilometers from Earth), 15h29m UT
2 The Moon passes 0.9° south of
Jupiter, 1h UT
7 Last Quarter Moon occurs at
Mercury is stationary, 4h UT
11 Neptune is stationary, 1 1h UT
The Moon passes 5° south of Venus,
1 2 The Moon passes 0.8° south of Spica,
The Moon passes 4° south of Saturn,
1 3 New Moon occurs at 22h08m UT;
total solar eclipse
14 The Moon is at perigee (357,361
kilometers from Earth), 10h22m UT
15 Venus passes 4° north of Spica,
1 6 The Moon passes 4° north of Mars,
The Moon passes 0.1° north of Pluto,
1 7 Leonid meteor shower peaks
Asteroid Pallas is stationary, 14h UT
Mercury is in inferior conjunction,
20 First Quarter Moon occurs at
The Moon passes 6° north of
Neptune, 22h UT
23 The Moon passes 5° north of Uranus,
26 Mercury is stationary, 20h UT
27 Venus passes 0.6° south of Saturn,
28 Full Moon occurs at 14h46m UT;
penumbral lunar eclipse
The Moon is at apogee (406,362
kilometers from Earth), 19h37m UT
29 The Moon passes 0.6° south of
For definitions of terms, log onto
www. Astronomy, co m/g lossa ry.
-' :''' '.'•■' .
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